x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

'I can't wait to work with Diego Maradona at Al Wasl'

New Iranian signing is eager to work with the Argentina legend as the evolution of the Dubai club's squad gathers paces.

Ali Reza Khalatbari, right, has joined Al Wasl for six months.
Ali Reza Khalatbari, right, has joined Al Wasl for six months.

Ali Reza Khalatbari could make his Al Wasl debut against Dubai tonight after joining Diego Maradona's team on a six-month deal.

The Iranian attacking midfielder, who has won 44 caps for his country, has joined from the Qatari side Al Gharrafa, and the Dubai club are hopeful that he will be registered in time to take his place in the squad this evening.

Khalatbari replaces Richard Porta, the forward who holds Uruguayan and Australian passports, as the club’s Asian player. Porta has been deemed surplus to requirements, along with Edson Puch.

Wasl already signed Fahad Salem Hadeed from Sharjah last month.

“We are using the current winter transfer window to restructure parts of the team based on our evaluation of the players in the past four months and after discussions with coach Maradona,” Marwan Bin Beyat, chairman of Al Wasl, said.

“Ali Reza is an exceptionally talented player and has the experience and skills that will help add value to the team. ”

Khalatbari is excited by the chance of working alongside Maradona. “It is an honour to work under Diego Maradona, and it still feels like a dream, but I’m here to work hard and try to quickly gain a starting spot and win the confidence of the fans, management and, of course, the coach,” Khalatbari said.

Meanwhile, Maradona believes Wasl are being unfairly targeted by officials after the club were forced to play two games, starting tonight, away from Zabeel Stadium because fans lit flares in a match against Al Nasr. Earlier in the season, Maradona was fined for criticising Cosmin Olariou, the Al Ain coach.

“I do feel Al Wasl are being targeted with these excessive bans and punishments,” Maradona said. “A fine would have sufficed, but a stadium closure and moving our next two games is very excessive. I have never seen a team other than us get punished this way. It saddens me.”