Arabian Gulf League 2014/15 team guides: Sharjah
The “kings” of UAE football are the new samba boys of the Arabian Gulf League.
All four of Sharjah’s foreign players – Mauricio Ramos, Wanderley, Luan and Leonardo Lima – are from Brazil, as is the coach, Paulo Bonamigo.
With that all-Brazilian cast, Sharjah are aiming higher this season after finishing seventh in the league last season on their return from Division One and reaching the semi-finals of the Arabian Gulf League Cup.
“The technical staff and the foreign players all speak the same language,” said Ibrahim Al Nimr, Sharjah’s chief executive.
“This will promote harmony within the team and contribute towards creating an atmosphere that will reflect on the performances on the pitch.”
Both Al Nimr and Bonamigo concede Sharjah did not finish as well as they would have liked last season.
They were among the league’s top four for much of the campaign, but injuries to key players saw them limp to the finish with only seven points from their final eight matches.
In the League Cup, they lost to eventual champions Al Ahli, with Ciel scoring the lone goal in the fourth minute of injury time.
“We faced a few problems with injuries towards the end of last season, and we have tried to make sure that scenario is not repeated by strengthening the squad,” Bonamigo said. “Still, I believe we managed to meet our targets by giving a stiff competition to the top teams and reaching the semis of the League Cup.
“This season, we should aim higher. My primary goal is to see Sharjah reclaim their former glory and compete for the titles in every tournament.
“To be able do that, we will have to work even harder and every player is ready for it.”
Ramos, the surviving member of last year’s foreign quartet, shares his coach’s optimism.
“The new players we have brought in have great potential and with their help and the support of the rest of the players I am confident we will provide a better season than the past,” said Ramos, who will be Sharjah’s captain and Asian player this season after getting Palestinian citizenship.
Last season, Sharjah finished with the best defence in the league, having conceded only 25 goals. They kept a clean sheet in nine matches and conceded one in 10 other games, and Ramos played a big part in that impressive performance. The Brazilian, 29, is rock solid in central defence; even the likes of Grafite and Asamoah Gyan struggled to get past him.
Luan Michel de Louza
Ramos’s teammate at Brazilian club Palmeiras is a quality striker who earned a move to French club Toulouse after just two seasons of professional football. Known as “Luan”, he spent the past season on loan to Cruzeiro. Teammates launched an online campaign urging him to stay when Sharjah came asking, but Luan, 25, chose the new challenge.
Wanderley Santos Monteiro
The Brazilian comes to Sharjah on the back of a good season with Qatari club Al Arabi, where he scored 12 goals to finish among the top five in the league. Wanderley, 25, has played under Paulo Bonamigo in Brazil and the coach is confident the forward, in tandem with Luan, can provide the goals his team were missing last season.
A late replacement for the injured Fellype Gabriel, Lima is one of the longest-serving foreign players in the Arabian Gulf League. He arrived at Al Nasr in 2010 and quickly established himself as a fan favourite with his commanding presence in the midfield. Shopped out by Nasr this summer, Lima, 32, will be looking to remind his former club what they are missing.
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Updated: September 9, 2014 04:00 AM