x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Arabian Gulf League: Swap deal between Al Wasl and Al Ain on the cards

Al Wasl's new manager Laurent Banide will oversee a summer of change as the club could replace one prominent member of the 2012 UAE Olympic team with another, writes John McAuley.

Mariano Donda is the only expatriate being retained by Al Wasl. Jake Badger for The National
Mariano Donda is the only expatriate being retained by Al Wasl. Jake Badger for The National

DUBAI // Al Wasl could be set to replace one prominent member of the 2012 UAE Olympic team with another, as the club negotiates the transfers of Rashid Essa and Ahmed Khalil.

The Zabeel Stadium is once more experiencing a summer of change, with Laurent Banide installed as manager and the new board determined to reinvigorate a flagging side.

Mariano Donda is the only expatriate being retained. Kaio, the Brazilian striker, was signed last month, while the departures of Hassan Ali and Ali Abbas have lightened the home-grown contingent.

Wasl's willingness to release Essa comes as a surprise after the club revealed they are considering an approach from Al Ain, the champions. The speedy midfielder was one of the most impressive players for the UAE at the London Olympics last summer, scoring a goal against Team Great Britain at Wembley Stadium.

However, Issa missed a considerable portion of last season through injury – the midfielder featured in only 12 Pro League matches as his side finished ninth – but he was thought to represent one of Wasl's most valued Emiratis.

However, the Wasl chairman, Abdullah Hareb, confirmed the club are tempted by a swap deal, although he did not identify which Al Ain player would appeal.

"Al Ain are interested and we are also," he said. "Essa's one of our important local players, but that doesn't mean we can't use him to the advantage of Al Wasl."

Should Essa leave, his place in the squad may be filled by Ahmed Khalil, the national side's most dependable scorer in recent years, and still only 22.

Wasl have asked about the Al Ahli forward's availability, and feel the promise of regular first-team football could convince him to sign. Earlier this month, Hareb's counterpart at Ahli, Abdullah Al Naboodah, stated Khalil was not for sale.

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