x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League: Decision to join Baniyas no-brainer for Carlos Munoz

Chilean forward, who showed off his skills before a pre-season game against Oman side Dhofar, says he chose Abu Dhabi side despite a similar offer from another club. Amith Passela reports.

Baniyas, in blue, beat the Oman club Dhofar 3-0 on penalties on Wednesday night. Satish Kumar / The National
Baniyas, in blue, beat the Oman club Dhofar 3-0 on penalties on Wednesday night. Satish Kumar / The National

ABU DHABI // Carlos Munoz said that Baniyas were always his preference as two clubs with similar financial returns bid on his services this summer.

"It wasn't a difficult decision," the Chilean forward said when he was unveiled after signing a three-year deal for US$6.5million (Dh23.8m) on Wednesday night.

"I don't want to make any mention of the other club, but I didn't have to think too much on where I was headed to.

"I knew a fair bit about the UAE because quite a lot of players from Chile were plying their trade in the Arabian Gulf League. And when I received the two offers, I had no difficulty in choosing my new club.

"The deal was almost the same, so I chose Baniyas because of the high level of the competitions in the UAE and the quality of life in the country, which I gathered from some of my friends."

Munoz, 24, was paraded onto the pitch to show fans of some of his ball-control skills before the team's encounter with Oman side Dhofar, the first game of their four-team pre-season tournament, which they won 3-0 on penalties after a scoreless draw in the regulation 90 minutes.

"I am delighted to be here and looking forward to the new challenge ahead," Munoz said.

"Obviously, I want to do my best and contribute in fulfilling the club's ambitions, which is to win as many trophies as possible."

Munoz is the high-profile signing of the summer for Baniyas, who have retained Andre Senghor, the Senegalese striker in his fourth season at the club, and extended the contract of Christian Wilhelmsson, the Swede who joined them in the middle of last season.

The only other change in the club's foreign quartet is the addition of Oman international Abdulsalam Al Mukhaini, who replaces the Australian Nick Carle as the designated Asian player.

Munoz, who previously played for Colo-Colo, joined Baniyas for training yesterday and will not take part in the pre-season tournament, which also includes Al Arabi of Kuwait and Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia.

"Munoz arrives with an excellent track record and doesn't have to prove anything to us in this friendly tournament," said Mubarak bin Muhairam, the Baniyas chairman.

"He was the top scorer for his club in the last two seasons and we are quite confident he will deliver for us."

Munoz began his youth career with the Santiago Wanderers and was promoted to the first team when he was 17. He signed with Colo-Colo in 2011 after being picked for the Chile national team earlier in the year.

In the game, Baniyas had to be patient before getting the better of Dhofar, and they will play the winner of the second game between Al Arabi and Nassr in the final on Sunday.

They could have finished the game in regulation time, had Senghor's powerful left footer not crashed against the bar in the second minute of the second half. Mohsin Al Hashimi, the Baniyas goalkeeper, was outstanding on the night. He saved all three spot kicks, while Nawaf Mubarak, Senghor and Mohammed Fawzi were on target with their efforts to give coach Jorge da Silva a winning start.

"It is always nice to start with a win and reaching the final provides our fans something to cheer about, although this competition is nothing more than providing the players an opportunity to get the feel of a game after a long break," Mubarak said.

Baniyas began their pre-season training on July 15 and will travel to Austria for summer camp from August 12 to 29.

apassela@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE