Al Wahda waste no time recruiting new faces
ABU DHABI // With two matches yet to play in the season, Al Wahda already have a new coach and two expatriate players for the next.
Branko Ivankovic, the former coach of Iran and the Saudi club Al Ettifaq, has been confirmed as coach of the Abu Dhabi and will take charge in the summer.
Eric Mouloungui, the Gabon international forward, and Anas Bani Yaseen, the Jordan defender, are expected to join the Abu Dhabi side after completing their contracts with their respective clubs.
"We are on the fast track to prepare for the new season, which we owe to our fans," a club official said. "The new coach will start from the summer and two players have completed the medicals, and they should be signing for us once they have completed their obligations with the current clubs."
Mouloungui will be a free agent after completing a four-year spell with Nice, the Ligue 1 club in France for whom he scored 14 goals in 80 games, and Bani Yaseen crosses over from Al Qadsia, the Kuwait premier league club.
The 28-year-old Mouloungui was on the radar of Sam Allardyce, the manager of the English Championship side West Ham United, but he rejected a loan offer to move from Nice. He began his career in his native Gabon before moving to Vauban Strasbourg, the French Ligue 2 club, in 2002.
Mouloungui signed for RC Strasbourg, where he spent four seasons, one year on loan to FC Gueugnon. He moved to Nice in 2008 and is out of contract this summer.
He has seven goals in 31 appearances with the Gabon senior side, and scored against Mali in the last eight of the African Cup of Nations earlier this year.
Bani Yaseen was instrumental in leading Jordan to the 2011 Asian Cup after scoring the winner in a qualifier against Singapore.
He was unable to play in the continental competition in Doha because of injury.
Bani Yaseen, 23, was also the captain of Jordan in the Under 20 World Cup and crosses over from the Kuwait club after one season.
Josef Hickersberger, the outgoing coach, believes Wahda need a "real change" if they are serious on winning titles next season.
Hickersberger led them to victory in the season-opening Super Cup and to the semi-finals of the President's Cup, and a recent surge has lifted them to fifth in the Pro League.
Wahda entered the season with three Brazilians in the final year of their contracts, the striker Fernando Baiano and the midfielders Hugo and Magrao. None of them are being retained. Mohammed Shaibah, the Oman international, was their only signing, on a one-year loan from Al Wasl.
Wahda shipped out some of their senior players: Abdulraheem Jumaa (Al Jazira), Basheer Saeed (Al Ahli), Fahed Masoud (Al Wasl), Hassan Amin (Al Nasr) and Mohammad Ali Omar (Emirates).
They also released Hamdan Al Kamali, the UAE Olympic team captain, on a six-month loan to Lyon, the top-flight French club.
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