x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League: Andre Senghor could be quick fix for Al Wasl's attack

Newest addition Andre Senghor should add goals, but Al Wasl is also investing in Emirati talent with an eye on the future, writes John McAuley.

Andre Senghor, centre, is a proven scorer and joins Al Wasl on a one-year loan from Baniyas. Shadi Malkawi / The National
Andre Senghor, centre, is a proven scorer and joins Al Wasl on a one-year loan from Baniyas. Shadi Malkawi / The National

The signing of Andre Senghor may well represent Al Wasl's most astute piece of business this summer, however, the club have no intentions to halt their recruitment drive just yet.

The Dubai side announced a loan deal for Senghor last week, completing a one-season agreement with Baniyas to take the prolific Senegalese striker to the Zabeel Stadium.

Senghor's acquisition, however temporary, is a significant coup for Wasl, given his record in the UAE top flight. In the past four seasons, he has scored 60 goals in 80 league matches alone, and in 2010/11 found the net 18 times to be awarded the Golden Boot.

Wasl expect Senghor to prove a success, and to lift spirits following two seasons of disappointment. Despite winning the league crown as recently as 2007, they have struggled recently, finishing eighth in 2012 and ninth last term.

"Fans have a lot of faith in Senghor to recover the Al Wasl name and return the team to the top table," said Sultan Hareb, a member of the club's board. "We've been looking for a long time to get the right player for next season, and Senghor is one of the best strikers in the league since it entered the professional era.

"So we already know how good a player he is, and we hope he can benefit the club. Senghor will add a lot, because his experience and know-how in the league can help the young players improve their skills."

Hareb said it is too early to contemplate making Senghor's loan deal permanent, since the player must also express a desire to remain at the club. If Senghor continues to provide plenty of goals, though, Wasl will understandably try their best to keep him.

The frontman joined his teammates at their training camp in Munich last Thursday and fills the final spot in Wasl's foreign ensemble. He is the fourth expatriate alongside Mariano Donda, the rehabilitated playmaker, and Kaio and Milan Susak, two other new additions.

Despite the investment, Wasl will continue to expand the squad's Emirati pool before their opening Arabian Gulf League fixture against Sharjah on September 14. They have already signed the trio of Abdullah Essa, Saif Mohammed and Ahmed Jumaa.

"We're discussing with several locals and we hope to conclude something this week, but it'll happen slowly, slowly," Hareb said. "Most of the clubs have already taken their good players with them to their camps, and it'll be very difficult to finalise anything before the camps are finished.

"We're mainly looking at defence. We're overqualified for the front positions and we feel that is enough. The only concern is the defence."

Although the substantial outlay will no doubt raise expectations among some of the UAE's most demanding supporters, Hareb was eager for them to remain patient. He forms part of a club board that has been in place since April, with the new committee consistent in underlining that their strategy is to build for the longer term.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the development and promotion of youth-team players, while the board envisions eventually implementing a European-style hierarchy. A director of football, to act as an intermediary between the coaching staff and the board, is preferred.

"We're trying to improve the team, that's the most important thing right now," Hareb added. "The target is to create a good, solid team like we had before. But we believe it will take time – years, not one season.

"We're not thinking about any trophies, but just to create a strong team that the other teams will say, 'How do we beat Al Wasl?' again. If teams are coming to Dubai, they must know it's not going to be easy. Likewise, when we go to their home.

"We're trying to bring back the name of the club as it used to be: strong and competitive with our rivals."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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