x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Fanfare begins early for Oliveira

Al Jazira provides a fitting introduction for new signing Ricardo Oliveira, the UAE's most expensive signing.

Al Jazira's new signing Ricardo Oliveira was humbled by the welcome he received.
Al Jazira's new signing Ricardo Oliveira was humbled by the welcome he received.

ABU DHABI // For the costliest player, a substantial show of largesse. Ricardo Oliveira became the country's most expensive signing on Monday when he joined Al Jazira in a ?14 million (Dh72.5m) transfer from the Spanish club Real Betis. The deal may have been completed, but the spending went on with some exuberant happenings to mark his arrival amid some meaningful mayhem. The Brazilian striker was paraded on a stage as a laser show, loud pop music, television footage of him in action for clubs such as AC Milan and Valencia, played all around him.

A giant poster of him hung from a ceiling as hundreds of screaming schoolchildren with his name on their Jazira shirts clamoured for a sight of the new man. This was more than the red carpet treatment. He has played for some of Europe's biggest clubs, but it would be fair to say that Oliveira has not witnessed anything like this on his travels. A flabbergasted Oliveira, 29, said: "I didn't expect such a big welcome. It was a surprise and at the same time sank really deep in my heart. I think I'm getting the praise for what I have done in the past.

"It is normal for big clubs to have such grand shows for their big players. Cristiano Ronaldo was given a wonderful reception at Real Madrid. This type of welcome is reserved for high profile players and I was quite surprised for what I received tonight." It took more than two months though for Oliveira to finally sign a record deal with Jazira. "There were quite a few offers from European clubs," he said, "but Jazira came with the best offer. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. I discussed it with my family and the deal was completed."

Oliveira spoke in Spanish which was then translated into Arabic. He revealed he had carried out some ground work to discover more about the Pro League by phoning a friend. His fellow Brazilian and former Betis player Marcos Assuncao, who was plying his trade for Al Shabab last season, recommended he accepted the chance. "He gave me the all clear to accept the offer. I came to know through him that the UAE league was growing stronger every year with a lot of Brazilian players and coaches around. I took some time, but I think I made the right move at the end. Now I need to repay them by performing on the pitch. "I have made this decision and my focus is to help my new club to win trophies. I am aware Jazira finished runner-up twice in the league and my goal is to see them win this time."

Oliveira says he will feel the pressure and will probably bear the brunt of expectations on the pitch when he steps into the void left by compatriot Fernando Baiano, who crossed the capital to join Al Wahda. Baiano banged in 35 goals in all competitions to finish last season as top scorer. "Baiano has set such a high mark and the real challenge for me will be on the pitch to score goals for my new club. I have been training with my new teammates for more than a month, but the real test will come when I get on to the pitch."

Oliveira had been expected to play his first game in the Al Jazira Cup competition that kicked off last night at Zayed Sports City, but his debut will now be delayed until after the start of the Pro league on September 25 after he suffered a slight ankle injury in training. His coach Abel Braga did not want to risk his high profile signing in the pre-season friendly, saying: "It's not serious but it is serious enough to put him out for a longer period if it is aggravated. There is no point in taking the risk."

apassela@thenational.ae