x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League: Barrada and boys to boost Al Jazira's revival

Officials concede last season was difficult but are willing to give Milla a longer run at unveiling of new players, writes Amith Passela.

Al Jazira’s Abdulaziz Barrada, above, Musallem Fayez, below left, and Humaid Al Mas are introduced last night. Pawan Singh / The National
Al Jazira’s Abdulaziz Barrada, above, Musallem Fayez, below left, and Humaid Al Mas are introduced last night. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Abdulaziz Barrada, the Moroccan international midfielder, says his intention in signing with Al Jazira is to become a successful player in Asia, rather than a medium-level player in Europe.

"It was a deal both parties were happy with and I am very glad that I took this path," he said through an interpreter in French during the official unveiling ceremony of Jazira's new players last night at the Dusit Thani Hotel.

"As a player, I want to bring success to the club, both in the domestic competitions and the Asian Champions League (ACL).

"The football in the UAE is improving all the time and we see a lot of good players moving to the Gulf. I am excited and looking forward to my first season at Jazira."

Barrada, 24, spent most of his time in France. He moved to the Spanish La Liga club Getafe in 2010 after three years with the Paris Saint-Germain reserve team.

Mohammed Atiq Al Hamli, a member of Jazira's board of directors, said to bring in young players like Barrada is the new strategy of the clubs in the rebranded Arabian Gulf League.

"The clubs are investing wisely on foreign players who are at the top of their game," he said. "Young players like Barrada will not only perform, but draw a lot of young fans to the game.

"I feel we have assembled a well-balanced squad to be among the leading players for the domestic titles, and of course, the ACL."

Ayedh Mabkhout, the team manager, has lofty ambitions for the season with the new signings.

"Barrada has a proven track record in both Europe and Africa," he said. "It is a matter of how soon he can adapt with his new teammates and I am sure players of his calibre don't need much time. They will gel in very quickly."

Mabkhout also said they had full confidence in coach Luis Milla to deliver in his first full season. The Spaniard took charge in February for Paulo Bonamigo, who is now in charge of Sharjah.

"We have long-term objectives with Milla," Mabkhout said. "He didn't have much success in his four months last season, but we are confident he can turn the club's fortunes around.

"It was a difficult last season, but we need to take that in the chin and carry on with our work for the next season. The players didn't perform to expectations."

Mabkhout defended the club's decision to fire Bonamigo when the team was third in the league.

"Changing the coach is a phenomenon in every club in the AGL, but Jazira have made the least changes in the past five years," he said.

"We changed the coach not purely on the results but for many other reasons. There has also been a movement on the players with some leaving and some new arrivals.

"These changes have taken place on the recommendations of the coach and the club, too, wanted fresh legs. These changes are done to strengthen the squad."

Subait Khater, the veteran midfielder, played down the pre-season hype by saying signing new players was not new at the start of the season.

"It is very hard to say the strengths and weaknesses of the teams until a few matches re played," he said. "There is no doubt on the abilities of the foreign players, but we need to wait and see how son they can adapt and how fast they can deliver. So fingers crossed."

The Emirati players Musallem Fayez, Humaid Al Mas, Fareed Ismail and Yaqoub Al Hosani were the others unveiled on the night.

apassela@thenational.ae

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