x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Arabian Gulf League: Bonamigo wants to introduce the new Sharjah

Club just returned to the UAE's top flight and is more of a reflection of new coach Paulo Bonamigo's style, writes John McAuley.

Paulo Bonamigo has viewed Sharjah previously from the opponent’s touchline. Now his view is a lot closer as head coach. Mike Young / The National
Paulo Bonamigo has viewed Sharjah previously from the opponent’s touchline. Now his view is a lot closer as head coach. Mike Young / The National

Paulo Bonamigo envisages the UAE top-flight will be its most competitive yet next season, although the Sharjah manager is confident his emergent side will be able to thrive.

The Brazilian guides the distinguished club on their return to what is now the Arabian Gulf League after agreeing in May to become their new manager.

Since then, he carefully reconstructed the squad in an attempt to ensure Sharjah avoid a repeat of the 2011/12 Pro League campaign, in which they failed to win a match after December and eventually finished bottom of the table. In all, they registered only two victories throughout the season.

Significant investment has been made this summer as the club's foreign composition has been restyled completely following the arrival of the Brazilian trio Ze Carlos, Mauricio Ramos and Fellype Gabriel.

Bonamigo is still searching for an Asian player to finalise his overseas quartet, although uncertainty surrounds the transfer of Javad Nekounam from Iran's Esteghlal.

The midfielder had agreed to terms before the Iranian football federation demanded his return because of a reported dispute regarding the UAE league's name change.

As well as the foreign recruits, Sharjah have augmented their local contingent, welcoming to the club Badr Abdulrahman, Abdullah Ahmed, Saleh Bashi, Ahmed Khamis and Mohammed Yousuf.

"We expect the team to be well adapted by September in time for the league," said Bonamigo, a former manager of Al Shabab and Al Jazira. "I learned from experience in this league and I know what types of difficulties to expect.

"The new Brazilian players will help in overcoming those expected difficulties. I anticipate the new league will be much stronger than it was in previous years, especially for the smaller teams.

"But it is difficult to say who will get relegated and who will remain in the competition since most teams are at the same level."

While Bonamigo is realistic enough to concede the league title is out of reach, he is convinced an already arduous pre-season Sharjah were the first Arabian Gulf League side to commence training – will have a positive impact on his young squad. The emphasis is very much on steady progression.

"We will be dedicating ourselves at this time to ensure a harmonious relationship between foreign and national players, and harmony is essential in achieving our real potential," he said. "We are building a team with young elements that we are trying to use in the best way.

"You can't pressure 17-year-old players who are performing for the first time at a professional level. Our ambition is to eventually record victories."

Key to those aspirations will be Gabriel, the attacking midfielder, whom Bonamigo knows well having managed him during his time at Portuguese, the Brazilian club.

The former Flamengo playmaker, 27, was signed last month from Botafogo and has been chosen to add experience to the side.

However, Gabriel has been impressed by what he has seen of his new teammates thus far.

"I have been observing the team in the current training period and I noticed many young players who have great potential but little experience," he said. "They have the ambition to learn and gain experience, and this is very important.

"Every player has his own ambitions that can be realised only through good and serious training. As a player, I will focus on presenting myself well and proving my abilities."

Gabriel will wear the No 11 jersey, the number he has played under at each of his previous clubs. He also said he consulted a collection of his compatriots with UAE football experience before deciding to join Sharjah.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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