Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Al Wahda insist exciting prospect Yahya Al Ghassani not for sale

Al Ghassani, 21, linked with move to Premier League side Burnley while several Bundesliga clubs also credited with an interest

From left: Ahmed Al Rumaithi, chairman of Al Wahda’s board of directors, Maurice Steijn, the club's new first-team manager, and Abdulsalaam Juma, team manager, during Steijn's presentation ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Courtesy Al Wahda
From left: Ahmed Al Rumaithi, chairman of Al Wahda’s board of directors, Maurice Steijn, the club's new first-team manager, and Abdulsalaam Juma, team manager, during Steijn's presentation ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Courtesy Al Wahda

Al Wahda have ruled out Yahya Al Ghassani moving to Europe this summer.

The 21-year-old winger was this week linked with a move to Premier League side Burnley while several Bundesliga clubs have also been credited with an interest.

Al Ghassani told The National on Saturday he would "love to play in Europe".

Ahmed Al Rumaithi, chairman of Al Wahda's board of directors, confirmed at a news conference on Monday that the the club had fielded inquiries as to Al Ghassani's availability but insisted he would not be leaving the Abu Dhabi club in this transfer window.

“Sometimes football agents make inappropriate statements to the media,” Al Rumaithi said during a media event at Al Nahyan Stadium to unveil new manager Maurice Steijn.

“In general I would like to say Yahya or any other youngsters in the club should complete three to four years playing in the top flight before even thinking of playing in Europe. Yahya has played just one season and that’s not ideal.”

Yahya Al Ghassani, centre, is attracting attention from clubs in Europe, including Premier League side Burnley. Courtesy Al Wahda
Yahya Al Ghassani, centre, is attracting attention from clubs in Europe, including Premier League side Burnley. Courtesy Al Wahda

Al Ghassani, born to an Emirati mother and a father who holds Tanzanian and Omani passports, joined Al Wahda at the beginning of last season. He went on to make 24 appearances for the club, scoring four goals, although injuries limited him to seven matches during the second part of the campaign.

Al Rumaithi said Al Ghassani will join the rest of the squad travelling to the Netherlands for a three and-a-half week camp on Monday.

“We would like him to leave behind all these distractions and fully focus on preparing for the club’s new season,” added Al Rumaithi.

Steijn replaces compatriot Henk ten Cate in the Al Wahda dugout for the new season after a the Dutchman led the club to a third-place finish in last season's Arabian Gulf League.

Wahda begin their season with an Asian Champions League (ACL) last 16 double-header against Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr on August 7 at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh with the return five days later in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m aware of the challenges to start as a new manager in the summer,” Steijn said when presented to the media on Monday.

“The players have had a two-and-a-half week break, and now we are heading for a camp and then to come 10 days before playing two big games in the ACL is a big challenge indeed.

“For me what’s important is that the players are in good physical [shape] and we have five weeks to prepare. We will be ready to play those games and hopefully be successful.”

Steijn, 45, has previously only managed in the Dutch league, spending three years at ADO Den Haag from 2011 and five years in charge at VVV-Venlo, guiding them to a 12th-placed finish in last season's Eredivisie.

He signed a one-year rolling contract and is understood to have been recommended to Wahda by Ten Cate before his departure.

“I have good relationship with Henk,” Steijn said. “I know the club want to carry on with the philosophy of Henk, who was very successful in his five months at club.

“He has told me only the positive things at the club. I watched Wahda’s last game of the season against Al Ain and later met Henk in Spain to talk more about the team. So I know a fair bit.”

Steijn said he is looking forward to getting to work with his new players.

“When we are in the camp I can watch the players with my own eyes and visualise the best XI to start,” he said.

I’ll have private chats with the players and at the end of the camp I’ll know all my players as a family would know them

“I’ll have private chats with the players and at the end of the camp I’ll know all my players as a family would know them.

“It’s also a very special day for me to work outside for the first time having worked as a head coach in Holland for 10 years. I’m looking forward for it.

“For me the first impression of the club was very positive. Our objective is to win as many games as possible - that’s the most important thing in football.

“The target for the next season is to finish as high as possible in the league as well as try to play beautiful football and developing players.

“Henk provided the opportunity for a lot of youth players. I’ll have a better idea of the team during the camp and then study our opponents. Hopefully, we can make a good season and achieve all our goals.”

Wahda are set to play six friendlies during their summer camp including two against top Dutch club sides.

Updated: June 24, 2019 04:00 PM

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