x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Arabian Gulf League: Al Nasr track two 'superstar' signings

Giuseppe Mascara and Bruno Correa look to be heading out of the exit door at club, writes John McAuley.

Mascara Giuseppe of Al Nasr takes on Abdulaziz Ismail of Kalba during the Etisalat Pro League match between Al Nasr and Kalba at Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai on the 20th October 2012. Credit: Jake Badger for The National
Mascara Giuseppe of Al Nasr takes on Abdulaziz Ismail of Kalba during the Etisalat Pro League match between Al Nasr and Kalba at Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai on the 20th October 2012. Credit: Jake Badger for The National

DUBAI // Al Nasr have promised a pair of "superstar" signings by the beginning of next week, as they seek to reposition themselves among the leading clubs in the UAE.

Last season's disappointing sixth-place finish in the Pro League has prompted significant change at Al Maktoum Stadium, with manager Walter Zenga replaced in June by Ivan Jovanovic, the former coach of Apoel Nicosia, the Cypriot champions.

There have been alterations to Nasr's foreign contingent, too, although as of yet only Brett Holman, the Australian striker, has been recruited. Leonardo Lima, Giuseppe Mascara and Bruno Correa currently occupy the remaining three expatriate spots.

However, as the team captain, Lima is the only certainty to be retained, and Nasr's announcement that they are close to acquiring another two players – both forwards – seems to signal the conclusion of the club's relationship with Mascara and Correa.

Nasr are considering offers for both players from teams within the UAE and the Arabian Gulf, yet revealed they may also see out the final year of their contracts.

"We are planning to bring two superstar strikers to the club and I hope to announce it by early next week," said Ahmed Khouri, the Nasr vice chairman. "We're in the final stages of negotiations.

"These are players coming from the top leagues in Europe and, based on the coach's recommendation and the statistics that we saw, they can be considered 'superstars'."

Khouri confirmed the technical committee has ended its interest in Peter Odemwingie, the West Bromich Albion striker, and Monaco's Ibrahima Toure.

The committee had provided Jovanovic a list of candidates to finalise his foreign roster, and insist the delay in completing deals was because the club sought the Serbian's endorsement.

"We wanted to wait on the other two until the coach arrived, so we could get his opinion," Khouri said. "If you want to be at the top, challenging the best four or five clubs, you have to bring superstars. That's part of the business."

While Nasr supporters will no doubt look forward to the addition of players who could potentially help the club regain the form that saw them finish third in 2010/11 and then runners-up the following campaign, the futures of Mascara and Correa somewhat complicate the situation.

Both players – Nasr's two top scorers from last season – understandably want their position clarified, but until now no decision has been taken.

"Of course, their contract with Al Nasr is still valid and they have done so much for the club," Khouri said. "Last year both players played wonderfully, but there was no result for the club. That is part of life.

"If there is any opportunity for them at any club within the UAE and GCC we will be happy, but if not we have to entertain their contract. In that case they will remain part of Al Nasr."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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