x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League: Ajman try to look beyond Khalatbari episode

Ajman in hunt for Asian player as Iranian moves to Tehran's Persepolis following controversy over name-change of UAE football league, reports Ahmed Rizvi.

Mohammed Reza Khalatbari, in yellow, had moved from Al Wasl to Ajman. Now, though, he seems set for a return to Iran. Mike Young / The National
Mohammed Reza Khalatbari, in yellow, had moved from Al Wasl to Ajman. Now, though, he seems set for a return to Iran. Mike Young / The National

DUBAI // Ajman are looking for an Asian player to replace Mohammed Reza Khalatbari after the Iranian international's move to the Tehran club Persepolis.

Khalatbari had signed a two-year deal with Ajman in June, but after the Pro League changed its name to Arabian Gulf League, the former Al Wasl midfielder was under pressure to return home after Iran's football federation decided to bar their players from signing for UAE clubs. The re-naming of the league had also led to the faltering of the talks between Sharjah and the Iran national captain Javad Nekounam in July.

"I penned a two-year contract with Ajman," Khalatbari was quoted as saying in the Iranian media. "My contract with this club was worth US$2.5 million (Dh9.1m), but I'm currently looking to terminate my deal because of the national interests."

Both Persepolis and Sepahan were keen to sign Khalatbari, but Ajman refused to let their player go cheaply, reportedly demanding a $1m fee.

The lengthy negotiations finally came to end on Saturday, when Persepolis paid $850,000 – the release clause in Khalatbari's Ajman contract – and signed the 29 year old for two years.

The matter, however, seems far from resolved. The Iranian transfer deadline was July 6 and, an Iranian source suggested, Ajman's release letter states the transfer date as July 5. The same source claimed other Iran clubs are collecting evidence against the deal and will take up the issue with the country's footballing authorities and Fifa.

Ajman, meanwhile, are hoping to find a replacement as soon as possible.

"Our job now is to find a replacement quickly," said Khalifa Jarman, the club chairman.

"There is not much time. We already studying some Arab names and hopefully we will finalise a deal at the earliest."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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