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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Hugo Viana arrives for Arabian Gulf League adventure at Al Ahli

Stint at Dubai club appeals to Portuguese central defender who seeks new challenge over three years in UAE, writes Ahmed Rizvi.
Al Ahli chief executive Ahmed Khalifa, third from left, introduced their new players at a news conference on Sunday. Antonie Robertson / The National
Al Ahli chief executive Ahmed Khalifa, third from left, introduced their new players at a news conference on Sunday. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // Hugo Viana, the former wonderkind of Portuguese football, says he turned down several offers at home and Europe, picking Al Ahli because he wanted a "different experience" toward the end of his career.

The Portuguese international with 29 caps was presented on Sunday night, along with Ahli's two other new signings – midfielder Humaid Abbas and defender Essam Dhahi.

Viana, 30, arrives from Portuguese club Braga on a two-year-deal, while Abbas, 25, has signed a three-year contract, switching from Dubai rivals Al Nasr, where he made 29 appearances last season and often wore the captain's armband.

Dhahi, 30, will be hoping to fill the spot left vacant by Lebanese international Yousuf Mohammed in central defence.

"I had some offers in Portugal and Europe, but three or four years ago, I thought when I finish my contract with Braga, I want a different experience," Viana said. "That is why I am here and I will do my best for the team and try to win something this season.

"I came here and I saw a very good team, a very good group and the spirit is fantastic. I believe together we can have a very good season."

Viana, whose earlier clubs include Valencia and Osasuna in Spain, helped Braga reach the Europa League final in 2011.

He also spent three seasons in the English Premier League after signing a £8 million (Dh12.2m) deal with Newcastle in 2002, which made him Britain's most expensive teenager.

Quique Sanchez Flores, the former Al Ahli manager, was Viana's boss at Valencia.

Sanchez Flores, however, has since decided not to continue and Cosmin Olaroiu – winner of back-to-back league titles with Al Ain – has taken over the job.

"They [Ahli] have signed a coach who has won many things in the UAE," said Viana, winner of the young European footballer award in 2002 after an impressive debut with Portuguese club Sporting.

"We hope the coach will continue winning with Ahli. Together, we are confident of winning something this season."

Abbas has similar hopes as well, coming from a club which has failed to win a domestic trophy since 1989. "I have not come here just to play," he said. "I have come here to be a champion."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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