x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

David Trezeguet's long road to Baniyas

The French striker is 'delighted' after Abu Dhabi trip, and the club's vice-chairman says his signing is a win for all UAE football.

David Trezeguet’s negotiations with Italian club Napoli broke down last month, allowing Baniyas to swoop for the Frenchman.
David Trezeguet’s negotiations with Italian club Napoli broke down last month, allowing Baniyas to swoop for the Frenchman.

David Trezeguet, the French World Cup-winning striker, turned down the chance to play Champions League football with Napoli to sign for Baniyas.

Trezeguet signed a one-year deal with the UAE club on Tuesday on a free transfer from the Spanish side Hercules, a club which was relegated from Spain's Primera Liga last season despite 12 goals from Trezeguet.

The move, rumoured to benefit the former France international by as much as €1.7 million (Dh9.1m) if all performance bonuses are reached, concluded a summer of protracted negotiations for the striker with clubs in Italy, France and England.

It was while negotiations were still on with Napoli, the Serie A club who rose to prominence in the 1980s thanks to the brilliance of Diego Maradona, now manager at Al Wasl, that the move to Baniyas materialised.

"A few weeks ago while we were there to deal for David to Naples, one of my co-workers [called] me for this chance with Baniyas," Antonio Caliendo, the player's agent, said. "Trezeguet came here to see the place and he was delighted."

At various points over the summer the deal with Napoli looked likely and the option of moving to Naples would have been particularly attractive after they were drawn in a Champions League group with Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Villarreal.

Caliendo even said at the time they would be willing to discuss a potentially reduced role for Trezeguet, but talks broke down earlier this month.

"As far as I can tell, the deal between Trezeguet and Napoli is closed," Caliendo told reporters at the time. "A marriage can only take place if two parties are enthusiastic. On our part, we have said everything, even discussing Trezeguet playing a role from the bench. However, we did not receive interest from Napoli, so that the deal could be over."

That breakdown sparked further speculation about the future of a key member of France's all-conquering side at the turn of the century. There was interest from Swansea City and Nice - as well as reports of a link to Aston Villa and his home side Monaco, where he first made his name. But nothing tangible materialised.

Baniyas then swooped and are unlikely to care much about the route Trezeguet took to get here. For a club on the up after a runners-up finish in the domestic league last season, he represents their biggest signing by some distance and is arguably the most high-profile signing by any club in the three-year history of the domestic league.

"The deal for Trezeguet is not for the gain of the Baniyas Club alone - it is also a win for UAE football," Saif Khaili, the Baniyas vice-chairman, was quoted as saying by Associated Press.

Trezeguet's signing adds to the lustre of a league which has also attracted Maradona as coach of Al Wasl and the Australia captain Lucas Neill to Al Jazira, the league champions.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae