x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Al Wahda let go of older players

Mutaz Abdulla and Omar Ali join Haider Ali at Emirates as capital club continue rebuilding phase for 2012/13 season.

Haider Ali has been an Al Wahda player since breaking into the first team in 1996. Tariq AlAli / Reuters
Haider Ali has been an Al Wahda player since breaking into the first team in 1996. Tariq AlAli / Reuters

Pro League hopefuls Emirates have swooped to sign two more experienced players from Al Wahda as the capital club continue their rebuilding ahead of the new season.

Just a day after announcing the signing of Nestor Ortigoza, the Paraguay international, and the former UAE and Al Wahda captain Haider Ali, 32, the Ras Al Khaimah club have added the goalkeeper Mutaz Abdulla, 38, and the defender Omar Ali, 32, who both played at the Al Nahyan Stadium last season.

And Emirates players and officials are confident the new arrivals can help them return to the elite league.

For Wahda the moves are part of a continuing shake-up of the squad.

"It is time for a complete overhaul," said Khaled Awadh, Wahda's deputy chief executive.

"That's the intention of the club management. While we appreciate the contributions of the senior players in the past we must also deal with the realities.

"We need fresh blood but we don't want to stop those who want to extend their playing careers elsewhere. We are going into a new season under a new coach and new foreign players, and hope the change is for the good."

Branko Ivankovic took charge of Wahda on a two-year deal and the club have signed Eric Mouloungui, the Gabon international, Papa Waigo of Senegal and Anas Bani Yaseen, the Jordan international, as three of their four foreigners.

"Negotiations are on-going for the fourth player," Awadh added.

Emirates have made a number of other additions to the squad ahead of the four-team play-offs which will decide the two additional teams to play in the Pro League.

They have brought in the Lebanese striker Hassan Maatouk, the Argentine German Herrera, Al Wasl's Obaid Nasser, Suroor Salem of Al Shabab, Wahda's Mohammed Osman and Ali Mohammed Rashid of Al Jazira.

Mohammed Ghobash, the vice-chairman of the club's board of directors, has described the play-offs as their first challenge and hopes these new players will help carry the team back into the top division.

"We took our time in deciding the players we wanted to buy and I believe we have succeeded in getting the players we wanted," Ghobash said.

"I have a lot of faith that these new players will be a strong addition to the team, especially for the play-offs, which we consider our first challenger. We want to do really well in the playoffs so that we can hit the ground running in the Pro League."

Maatouk, who spent the last season at Ajman, was confident Emirates can force their way back to the Pro League with the addition of the new players.

"I would like to thank the Emirates' management for getting so many top players," the Lebanese said. "They have shown a lot of confidence in us and now it is time for us to repay their trust. I am sure we can do that - we have the quality to be playing in the Pro League again next season. These players are worthy of the trust and responsibility given to them and I am confident we will deliver."

Haider has been a Wahda player all through since breaking into the first team in 1996 and is the last player to leave Wahda from the squad that won a maiden league title in 1998. They claimed the title again in 2001, 2005 and 2010, and a first ever President's Cup in 2000, but had a disappointing last season.

"We wish we can regain those glory days," said Awadh, who has been a player and administrator of the club all his life.

"I think we were stuck with the same players for too long. The club enjoyed a glorious period with the '96 batch. We hope the next generation of the players will bring the same success of this team of the past."

Haider, along with the Juma brothers, Abdulsalam and Abdulraheem, Basheer Saeed and Fahed Masoud, were all from the 1996 squad and still ply their trade.

The Juma brothers will wear the Al Dhafra shirt in the new season. Saeed signed for Al Ahli during the January transfer window and Masoud has been Al Wasl player since last season.

Meanwhile, Bruno Metsu's work at Al Wasl has begun with two new signings and a contract extension.

Ali Abbas, the Al Nasr defender, returns to the Zabeel Stadium while Mohammed Hussain, the goalkeeper, has completed a move from Ajman.

Hassan Ali Ibrahim, the former Ahli midfielder, has been given a one-year extension.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE