x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League: Michel Bastos wanted to come to Al Ain

Schalke was not too keen on giving up Brazilian playmaker but club was able to reach terms with Al Ain, reports John McAuley.

Michel Bastos slipped through Al Ain’s fingertips last year but things have changed. Juergen Schwarz / Getty Images
Michel Bastos slipped through Al Ain’s fingertips last year but things have changed. Juergen Schwarz / Getty Images

Michel Bastos is looking forward to wearing the Al Ain jersey, now that his protracted transfer to the UAE champions is set to be completed Friday.

The Lyon midfielder has agreed to a three-year deal with the Garden City club and will arrive in Dubai on Thursday before undertaking a medical the following day. He will then sign the contract and should be able to join his new teammates for pre-season training from the beginning of next week.

"Everything has been agreed," confirmed Bastos's agent, Emmanuel de Kerchove. "Michel must complete the medical examination, but all the paperwork is done. Now it just needs to be signed. This is the quick part."

Al Ain have long courted the Brazilian, and last summer were close to sealing his signature only for the French club to insist upon a fee of €10 million (Dh48.5m). At the time, Al Ain were prepared to offer €6m, rising to €9m.

However, the impasse did not discourage the Al Ain board, who last month reopened negotiations with both Lyon and the player. Bastos has always been receptive to the move to the Emirates, but Schalke represented a stumbling block; they had taken the player on loan from Lyon in January and had first option to make permanent his contract.

The German club attempted to exercise that right – Lyon had given them a deadline yesterday to match Bastos's €4m valuation – but realised the futility in retaining a player who was keen to continue his career elsewhere.

"We needed to fight a little with Schalke because they wanted Michel to stay, but in the end they accepted this resolution," De Kerchove said. "Michel made clear he wanted to go to Al Ain and in this situation it's not positive for somebody to have a player who does not want to stay. That was the main reason we came to a solution."

Bastos's arrival means one of Al Ain's three non-Asian foreign players must make way, with Jires Kembo Ekoko, the French forward, the most likely departure.

Kembo Ekoko enjoyed a relatively successful debut season, following his transfer last September from Rennes, and he is thought to have impressed Jorge Fossati, Al Ain's new coach, in training this week.

Yet, with Asamoah Gyan and Mirel Radoi both highly rated, his time at the club seems set.

Bastos, 29, constitutes a considerable upgrade, though, as he played almost 200 matches in the French top flight across seven seasons, with Lille and Lyon. He also has considerable Uefa Champions League experience, featuring in 28 games, and was part of the Brazil squad at the 2010 World Cup. In all, he has 10 caps.

Bastos has gauged the opinion of Grafite, his compatriot at Al Ahli, on professional and personal life in the UAE, and is said to have made winning the Asian Champions League his main priority.

"Michel's happy to live here with his family and to learn another championship, another culture and a different way of life," De Kerchove said. "He's heard only good things about Al Ain from those who used to play there; that it's a serious club and a secure city. He's looking forward to coming."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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