x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Familiar faces and big names grace the UAE football stage

It has been a busy summer of transfer activity in the Pro League. How will the imports fare?

Al Jazira only made one major signing during the summer, but Lucas Neill, the Australia captain.
Al Jazira only made one major signing during the summer, but Lucas Neill, the Australia captain.

Grafite (Al Ahli)

The 32-year-old Brazil international comes with a pretty impressive CV. He has won the Brazilian league, the Copa Libertadores and the Club World Cup, all in the same season (2005), with Sao Paulo and was voted the best player of the German Bundesliga in 2009 after leading Wolfsburg to the title.

Two years on, Grafite remains a potent force in front of the goal and has already scored five times in four Etisalat Cup games.

Most likely to ... be at the top of the scoring charts in May.

David Trezeguet (Baniyas)

If the trophies in his cabinet count, the Frenchman is the biggest star to grace UAE football. He was named by Pele in his list of Fifa 100 (greatest living footballers), is a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur, owns a World Cup winners' medal (and a runners-up one) and has won two Italian league titles with Juventus and was a runner-up in the Champions League. He also struck the golden goal in the Euro 2000 final against Italy.

Most likely to ... score the league's fastest goal - in terms of velocity. One was clocked at 97.6mph.

Ibrahima Toure (Ajman)

A product of the youth academy at the French side Metz, Toure may not boast the impressive credentials of Grafite or Trezeguet, but he currently leads the Etisalat Cup scoring charts with six goals. At his last club, the Senegalese scored 44 goals in 66 appearances for Sepahan, winning two Iranian league titles. Ajman may not have the same pedigree as Sepahan, but Toure could be one of the biggest stars of the season.

Most likely to ... repeat the spectacular bicycle-kick goal we saw against Baniyas.

Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain)

Early in his career, Gyan was linked with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and AC Milan.

More recently, the Ghana international was linked with a host of top clubs such as Real Madrid and Marseille, but surprisingly ended up at Al Ain when Sunderland accepted a lucrative season-long loan deal.

Most likely to ... regale Al Ain fans with repeated renditions of his famous "Asamoah Gyan Dance" goal celebration.

Luis Jimenez (Al Ahli)

Part of Jose Mourinho's squad at Inter Milan in 2007, the Chile international has also featured for some of the other top Italian sides such as Parma, Lazio and Fiorentina. Jimenez, 27, was a coveted player in the Italian league, but his complicated contract with Ternana, the small Italian side, who owned him, ruined a full-time move to these clubs.

He has finally broken free from their clutches with a four-year Ahli deal and his keen to reclaim his place in the Chile national team.

Most likely to ... score some stunning goals from free kicks.

Lucas Neill (Al Jazira)

The Australia captain, 33, spent 15 years in the English Premier League, going toe to toe with the likes of Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

He played more than 430 matches in England and captained two Premier League sides. The Dutch great Johan Neeskens once said Neill "could play for any of the best clubs". His capture by Jazira should represent a coup.

Most likely to ...leave more than a few bruised legs in his wake with his combative and committed style.

Ignacio Scocco (Al Ain)

Coming through the Newell's Old Boys youth programme in Argentina, Scocco played alongside Ariel Ortega in the championship-winning team of Apertura 2004.

The 26-year-old winger attracted plenty of interest from Italian clubs such as Fiorentina, Udinese and Genoa after impressing with AEK Athens in the Greek Super League and the Europa League, but Al Ain got to him first and paid the €3 million (Dh14.9m) buyout clause. Has scored some spectacular goals from as far out as 40 yards.

Most likely to ... repeat that in the UAE.

Mariano Donda (Al Wasl)

When Al Wasl first announced the Argentine as one of Diego Maradona's two foreign recruits, Donda hardly made the headlines.

With all the big names arriving in the UAE, the midfielder, 29, was a bit of an unknown. Starting his professional career with Nueva Chicago, Donda spent three seasons at Bari in Italy before returning home to Godoy Cruz last year. Four matches into the season here, however, has pushed Donda into the spotlight.

Most likely to ... make the most of any free kick he gets.

Mark Bresciano (Al Nasr)

An 11-year veteran of the Italian league, Bresciano arrived from Lazio with a healthy reputation.

He is considered one of Australia's most talented football players, with a keen eye for goals. Versatile and considered to be a set-piece specialist. Before Lazio, the Italian-born Bresciano plied his trade with Palermo, Parma and Empoli with success. Was heading for Manchester City in 2007, but talks broke down.

Most likely to ... make his "Spartacus" goal celebration a regular feature of Nasr's matches.

Azizbek Haydarov (Al Shabab)

A former Uzbekistan Olympic team captain, Haydarov has been an impressive addition to Shabab's midfield.

The winner of three Uzbek league titles and two cups, with Lokomotiv Tashkent and Bunyodkor, Haydarov, 26, has shown leadership qualities in the middle. He also has a penchant for scoring some smart goals as well.

Most likely to ... emerge as the best Asian player of the Pro League.

arizvi@thenational.ae


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