Arabian Gulf League Champions announce deal for former Al Ahli frontman, who will line up at Abu Dhabi club alongside compatriot Ali Mabkhout.
Al Jazira sign UAE striker Ahmed Khalil from rivals Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club
Al Jazira have finally confirmed the signing of UAE striker Ahmed Khalil.
The 26-year-old former Al Ahli forward had been tipped to join the Arabian Gulf League champions for some time, although the club announced the deal only on Monday.
Khalil, who became the first Emirati to be crowned Asian Player of the Year when he won the award in 2015, had spent his entire career at Ahli and joins Jazira on a free transfer. He travelled with the squad on Monday to their training camp in the Netherlands.
“I want to thank everyone at Al Ahli for their support,” Khalil said. “I promise the Al Jazira fans and my teammates that I will give my best. Al Jazira can compete with the big teams and recently won a major championship. The project here is an ambitious one and that is motivation for any player.”
Khalil made his debut for Ahli in 2006 and went on to score 56 goals in 166 league appearances in the professional era. During that time, he helped the Dubai side to three UAE top-flight titles, one President’s Cup and the Arabian Gulf Cup three times. Ahli begin next season as Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club having merged with Al Shabab and Dubai in May.
Although they have known of Khalil’s situation for some time, losing the frontman still represents a significant blow for the new entity. In 2015, Khalil played an integral role in Ahli’s run to the Asian Champions League final, while he has also become one of the UAE national team’s most influential players.
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Khalil scored the goals to seal the country’s first appearance at the Olympics, in 2012, and was a key part of the side that won the 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations and finished third at the 2015 Asian Cup – the country’s best performance on foreign soil. His 15 goals thus far in qualification for the 2018 World Cup make him the competition’s second top scorer.
At Jazira, Khalil will line up alongside compatriot Ali Mabkhout, the 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League's top goalscorer. The UAE champions have also announced the signing of Sardor Rashidov, the Uzbekistan forward who spent the past two years at Qatar’s El Jaish.