x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Arabian Gulf League: Family ties for Carlos Villanueva at Al Shabab

Chilean player excited and feeling right at home after returning from spell on loan, reports Ahmed Rizvi.

Al Shabab’s new quartet of players, from left, Abdullah Faraj, Carlos Villanueva, Hassan Mohammed Zayed and Fahad Khalfan.
Al Shabab’s new quartet of players, from left, Abdullah Faraj, Carlos Villanueva, Hassan Mohammed Zayed and Fahad Khalfan.

DUBAI // Carlos Villanueva is excited to be back with his "family" at Al Shabab after missing the last season due to a knee injury.

Villanueva, 27, was loaned out to the Chilean club Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica in January following his recovery from a cruciate ligament surgery that had kept him out of action for six months.

The Chilean, who arrived at Shabab in 2009 from the English Premier League club Blackburn, was unable to force his way back into Marcos Paqueta's squad during the winter transfer window, but the club were keen to bring him back into the team for the new season and turned down numerous offers for the midfielder.

Villanueva, who made 11 appearances for Universidad, will replace Luis Henrique, the Brazilian midfielder who will be turning out for the Ras Al Khaimah club Emirates in the new season.

"I am very happy to be back here in Shabab," said Villanueva, who has extended his contract with Shabab till the end of the 2015. "I feel very comfortable here. They treat me like I am part of the family here and because of this I feel at home here.

"In Chile, I played for four months and I felt really good. I played a lot of games and I think I did well and got my confidence back. My knee is 100 per cent now and that's the most important thing. Now I am concentrating on working hard and having a good season with Shabab, and hopefully we will win something."

Villanueva, who has made 53 appearances for Shabab since 2009 and scored 13 goals, was a big hit at Universidad Catolica, as he returned home to Chile for the first time since leaving the country for Blackburn in 2008. The director of Universidad and, seemingly, all of the club's fans wanted the diminutive playmaker to stay, but Villanueva wanted to be back to honour his contract with Shabab.

"It was not a very difficult decision to make because I wanted to be back at Shabab," Villanueva said. "The [Universidad] director wanted me to stay back, but I have a contract. All the fans also wanted me to stay back and that means I did a good job there.

"It was nice to be back in my country playing after five or six years, but now my focus is on having a really good season with Shabab."

Villanueva spoke to the media late last night as Shabab presented the Chilean along with their three new domestic recruits - Abdullah Faraj from Al Jazira, Hassan Mohammed Zayed of Sharjah and Fujairah's Fahad Khalfan.

"Shabab are a club with big ambitions and I hope to win a trophy with the club next season," Faraj said. "There are a lot of good players here and I will work hard to force my way into the team and help the team achieve their ambitions."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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