x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Al Wasl signal interest in signing Lucas Neill

The Australian could be set for a quick return to the Pro League, but the former Al Jazira man has also been linked to deals in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Lucas Neill was on target for Al Jazira at times last season, but not enough times and was released. Now he is trying to work a move to Al Wasl.
Lucas Neill was on target for Al Jazira at times last season, but not enough times and was released. Now he is trying to work a move to Al Wasl.

 

DUBAI // Lucas Neill is "80 per cent certain" to return to the Pro League and sign for Al Wasl, according to a Dubai-based agent key to the negotiations.

The Australian centre-back, who in May was released by Al Jazira following one season at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, was expected to join either Al Shabab, the Saudi champions, or Al Sailiya, the Qatari side recently promoted to the country's Stars League.

However, it is believed both clubs are reluctant to bow to Neill's wage demands, with the 34 year old reported to want US$1.5 million (Dh5.5m) for a one-year deal.

Their reticence has convinced Wasl to enter discussions with the experienced defender, an addition Bruno Metsu, the Dubai club's new coach, would regard as crucial if his side are to improve on last season's disappointing eighth-place finish.

Metsu admitted last week that he is interested in recruiting two foreign players - a striker and a defender - before the squad departs this Wednesday for a pre-season training camp in Germany.

Should he sign, Neill would replace Mohamed Al Shaibah, the Omani defender, as Wasl's Asian player.

"Our defence is not strong enough and we need to add more quality there," Metsu said.

"But that is normal: last season [in the league] Al Wasl conceded 40 goals."

Yet, while the unnamed agent claimed the deal to bring Neill to the Zabeel Stadium is close to being completed, he did warn the former Blackburn, Everton and Galatasaray star about the perils of demanding an excessive financial package.

"It is 80 per cent certain that he will sign for Al Wasl," the agent is quoted telling Australia's SBS website.

"But it may be a case of the player not commanding the same wage that he earned the previous season at Al Jazira, whether he signs for Al Wasl or not. Players need to be realistic about the money on offer at this time, especially when they are in their 30s."

The report states Wasl would be willing to pay Neill $1m for a 12-month contract. It still represents a significant investment in a player who featured only 19 times for Jazira last year following his summer transfer from Galatasaray.

Neill enjoyed mixed success with the Abu Dhabi club, scoring the opening goal in their President's Cup final victory against Baniyas in April before missing a penalty the following month in the shoot-out defeat to Saudi's Shabab, which saw Jazira eliminated from the last 16 of the Asian Champions League.

Despite the uncertainty regarding his future at club level, Neill remains captain of the Australian national team. He collected his 84th cap for the Socceroos last Wednesday in their friendly match with Scotland.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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