x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Diego Maradona optimistic Richard Porta will add value to Al Wasl

Dubai club coach says Uruguayan is strong inside and outside box, unlike in-form Juan Manuel Olivera Olivera.

Richard Porta, right, in action for Uruguayan side Nacional, has moved to Al Wasl on a one-year loan deal.
Richard Porta, right, in action for Uruguayan side Nacional, has moved to Al Wasl on a one-year loan deal.

DUBAI // Diego Maradona believes his latest signing can provide the firepower to turn Al Wasl into Pro League title contenders.

Richard Porta, a 28-year-old Australia-born Uruguayan centre-forward, moved to the Zabeel Stadium on a one-year loan deal earlier this week, after prolonged negotiations with parent club Siena of Italy.

And Maradona, the Wasl coach, is confident the forward, who netted 41 goals in 78 league goals for River Plate, can form a potent front line with Juan Manuel Olivera, his fellow Uruguayan.

"Porta has arrived from the middle of the season in Uruguay [where he was on loan at Nacional]," said Maradona, who signed his first professional contract 35 years ago this week.

"He is a top-class striker, very fast with good movement from the left and right. He is definitely of added value to the team alongside Abdullah Abdulrahman [a 22-year-old forward signed last week from Al Ahli].

"He is very strong both inside and outside of box, which is very important. Unlike Olivera, who operates at his best inside the box, Porta can bring the ball into the box but also cause problems from outside, too."

Olivera was the key to last week's opening victory at home to Sharjah, netting a hat-trick in the 3-0 win. However, Maradona warned that no player is guaranteed a place in his starting XI.

"The most important thing is we have a fair and level playing field," said Maradona, who, while in charge of the Argentina national team, selected 90 different players in the space of only 14 months. "No player is a constant in my team, they all have to earn their spot. Healthy competition is good for the team.

"It means players always must play their best because if their level drops, someone takes their place. In fact, the more players, the more the competitiveness and when that happens you find the skill level actually increases."

Last week, Maradona criticised his club's board for procrastinating in their pursuit of Porta, but a deal was struck on Tuesday and the striker may yet feature in Wasl's league game with Baniyas on Saturday night, although the coach said he is likely to field a predominantly unchanged side to the one that comfortably defeated Sharjah.

Porta is also dealing with a niggling injury.

"Now he is training with the team, but he's suffering from a small strain and cramp in one of his muscles," said Maradona. "He is recovering fast though and getting to know his new teammates, formation and the club."

Maradona said, having watched as many of last week's first round of league games as he could, that he believes most teams to be fairly evenly matched. "The most important thing is not to doze off," he said. "If you do that, if you fall asleep, you end up losing. So we must show concentration, especially in defence, and we must be ready and fully prepared."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae


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