x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Arabian Gulf League: Luis Farina goes the extra mile with Baniyas

Well-travelled Argentine midfielder targets the UAE football league title with Baniyas, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Luis Farina, right, has recently moved from Racing Club to Benfica and on to Baniyas on loan.
Luis Farina, right, has recently moved from Racing Club to Benfica and on to Baniyas on loan.

ABU DHABI // Luis Farina is excited about linking up with Carlos Munoz in the new Baniyas midfield and is confident his team will be challenging for domestic and international honours this season in the Arabian Gulf League.

The Argentine, 22, arrives at the GCC Champions League winners on a year-long loan from Benfica, less than three weeks after signing a five-year deal with the Portuguese club.

He spent the previous four seasons at Argentine club Racing Club, but traversing three different continents in three weeks has not dimmed Farina's enthusiasm and he is looking forward to repaying Baniyas for their faith in him when the new season begins next month.

"I am really happy to be here," Farina said yesterday as he donned the blue No 10 jersey for the first time. "The club showed they really wanted me here and that's very important for a player.

"The decision to come here is mine and my goal is to win the championship. It's a new challenge for me and I want to win the championship here before I return to Benfica.

"The club has big ambitions. They want to be competitive in Asia and win domestic championships. They have a lot of plans for the new season. So I hope I can play my part in meeting the club's targets."

As Farina tries to settle into his new environment, he will have a few familiar faces to help him settle in.

The new Baniyas coach Jorge Da Silva is a well-known name in South American football and he guided Penarol to the Uruguayan league title last season.

Munoz, the Chilean striker who scored 35 goals in 73 appearances for Colo-Colo over the past three seasons, is also a familiar face for Farina and the two will be marshalling the Baniyas midfield alongside the Amer Abdulrahman.

"I do know Munoz and I have seen all his goals," Farina said. "I know he was with Colo-Colo and with Chile being close to Argentina, we follow South American football. I am very happy that I will be playing alongside him."

Farina's addition means Baniyas currently have five foreign players on their roster for four alotted spots. Swede veteran Christian Wilhelmsson, who signed an extension during the summer break, is "most probably" going to be looking for a new club, according to Mubarak Al Mahroom, the chairman of the Baniyas Football Company.

The final decision, however, will be made by the coach.

Baniyas had shown their interest in Farina before he signed with Benfica and Al Mahroom was glad he had gone to a club who had "really good relations" with the Abu Dhabi club, which helped in getting the loan deal done.

With a strong foreign quartet of Farina, Munoz, Senegalese striker Andre Senghor and Oman international Abdulsalam Al Mukhaini in place to compliment an impressive unit of Emirati players, Al Mahroom expects Baniyas to challenge for domestic honours.

"We would not have made these changes if we were not sure we are going to be challenging for the titles," he said.

"We don't know about our participation in the Asian Champions League as yet because, that decision will be made later, but our target is to fight for all three domestic championships this year.

"Baniyas needed some new blood, some new energy in the foreign section. That is why we have got players who are in the same age group as our Emirati players."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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