x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Grafite urges coach Quique Sanchez Flores to sign new Al Ahli deal

The forward extended his contract to stay at the Rashid Stadium last week - and now wants his coach to commit to the club after their success this season.

Al Ahli forward Grafite wants Quique Sanches Flores to follow his lead and sign a new deal with the club.
Al Ahli forward Grafite wants Quique Sanches Flores to follow his lead and sign a new deal with the club.

DUBAI // With his Al Ahli contract freshly extended, Grafite is now imploring manager Quique Sanchez Flores to do likewise.

On Thursday, the Brazilian striker, the Pro League's second highest scorer this season, committed his future to the Dubai club, signing a one-year extension to keep him at the Rashid Stadium until the conclusion of the 2013/14 campaign.

Grafite rejected offers from Europe - his stock remains high there following four goal-laden years in Germany's Bundesliga - and from clubs in his homeland, citing the quality of life here as the main reason to remain.

"I was tempted [to move] because I received good offers, especially to come back to Brazil," Grafite told The National. "But now I must think also about my family because my daughter's growing up and will go to school and university, and the city here is very safe.

"Everything is good in Dubai and, although I'm happy here, really like the club and the opportunity to play in the Asian Champions League was crucial, the most important thing in making this decision is that I thought about my family. Staying here was the better option. I made a good decision."

Understandably, Grafite wants Sanchez-Flores to follow suit. In 17 months at Ahli, the Spaniard has steadily improved the club, guiding them to Etisalat Cup success in May while advancing their league form. Saturday's 2-0 victory against Al Wahda all but guaranteed their participation in next season's Champions League.

With four matches remaining, Ahli are second in the domestic table, and next month contest a President's Cup semi-final with Al Ain, the newly crowned league champions.

Retaining Sanchez Flores past this summer therefore appears paramount, although the former Valencia, Benfica and Atletico Madrid coach has refused to discuss his contract until after the denouement of the current campaign - when his present deal expires.

Grafite, though, is optimistic Sanchez Flores, 47, will continue at the club.

"It's important he stays with us because he knows the team, the players and keeps the identity of the club," said the striker. "I remember last year when he arrived, the local players came only for training and then went back home.

"When they played, if they won, good, and if not, it was good, too; receive your money and go back home. But Quique changed the mentality. He put inside the minds of the players that they could do more, win more and achieve everything for the club.

"So if he can stay next year then that's very important for us as we can win something together. I hope he does, but here in Al Ahli and the UAE anything can happen. Everybody said last year Quique would leave - too many people - but he stayed. However, the most thing is for him is to be happy. If that means another club in Europe wants him to come back I'm happy for him. But for the club it's very good if he stays."

Much like the rest of his teammates, Grafite has thrived under Sanchez-Flores's stewardship. The forward, who turned 34 last month, has 24 goals in 22 matches this season, taking his Ahli record to a remarkable 54 goals in 56 games.

He sees his prolificacy as a consequence of the team's evolution, and says 2013/14 can prove even more successful provided the club "maintain 100 per cent focus" throughout the season. Integral to that development is eradicating the dropping of points at home that this term eventually stymied their title challenge.

"I accepted the club's invitation to sign because I hope next season to improve on my two years here and win something," Grafite said. "Next year is the key season for us. We have developed the team, in its character and everyone has bonded.

"We don't have only 11 or 12 players, but a good group and a good coach and technical staff. So next year we have a real chance to win the league and also the President's Cup, and then see what we can do in the Asian Champions League. We have a team to achieve something good. That's important."



twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE and John McAuley @weejinmac