John McAuley looks at the top foreign and Emirati players who had an impact in the transfer window for the Arabian Gulf League.
Key transfers in Arabian Gulf League
The expanding Australian presence in UAE football was underlined by Nasr's capture of the player voted his country's best in 2012. Holman may not have fully enjoyed his time in England's Premier League with Aston Villa – he made 27 appearances, scoring once – but he was an integral component in his national team's successful qualifying campaign for the 2014 Fifa World Cup. With a ticket to Brazil to keep him motivated, Holman will no doubt continue to burnish his reputation as a hard-working, sprightly striker. He has aspirations, too, of emulating compatriot Mark Bresciano's supreme 2010/11 season at Al Maktoum Stadium.
A few things stick in the mind from the Primera Liga match between Getafe and Real Madrid last August. One is Mesut Ozil's glaring open-goal miss, another is Gonzalo Higuain's sublime first touch that prompted his opener. However, it was Moroccan international Barrada who stole the show, creating the equaliser and then scoring the goal to gift his side an unlikely victory. In two seasons in the Spanish top flight, Barrada made 64 appearances and notched eight times - statistics suggesting he will be a hit here, too. A dead-ball expert, the cultured midfielder displays great vision and, at only 24, he represents a long-term investment.
While Brazilians Ciel and Edgar Bruno received the plaudits for Al Shabab's fine 2012/13, their diminutive compatriot with the huge talent was quietly earning his stripes, too. Stocky with deceptive acceleration, the 32 year old managed 11 goals from 30 matches in his debut campaign across the Pro League and Etisalat Cup, while he featured in five of Shabab's eight Asian Champions League games, scoring in the knockout stages. His transfer to Emirates surprised, the newly promoted club pulling off a relative coup in securing his services. Could be the difference between Eid Baroot's men staying up or not.
Chilean midfielders seem all the rage these days, with Luis Jimenez providing a deft touch to Al Ahli's attack and Carlos Villanueva back at Al Shabab following injury and a loan spell in his homeland. They will soon be swapping Santiago tales with Estrada, above, their countryman who arrives at Wahda from Montpellier in France. He promises to be a fine addition. Estrada, 30, was a pillar of Montpellier's 2011/12 Ligue 1-winning side and has Uefa Champions League experience. Brought for his leadership qualities, he is committed, strong in the air and possesses a sturdy shot from distance. Versatile, can be deployed in defence.
Once the most expensive teenager in British football, the Portuguese playmaker has not lived up to his billing since Newcastle United paid Sporting €12 million (Dh56.8m) in 2002. Back then Newcastle's chairman proclaimed: "The general consensus is that he's the best young player in the world at the moment." However, it took a return home, via Spain, to reignite a faltering career, the midfielder helping Braga reach the 2011 Europa League final. Viana's obvious skillset – expert set-piece delivery and pinpoint passing – should make him one of the most influential players. Signed as a free agent, he is a steal.
The Ivorian, above, qualifies as a local player following the granting of UAE citizenship in 2006, and will offer the champions considerably more quality in a midfield that creaked last season under a heavy schedule. Frozen out at Al Jazira by Luis Milla, Diaky’s best days seemed behind him as he appeared often lethargic, his contribution fleeting. A transfer to Al Ain may be just what he needed, then, with Diaky, 31, likely to ease the strain on Helal Saeed’s weary limbs.
Despite only recently celebrating his 25th birthday, the midfielder arrives at the Rashid Stadium with a wealth of top-flight experience having represented Al Nasr 73 times in the league during the past four seasons. Under Walter Zenga, Abbas became one of the mainstays of the team, and at times was entrusted with the captaincy. Operating on the right side of midfield, he offers an alternative option to the impressive Ismail Al Hammadi, and will prove an astute signing given the President’s Cup champions’ crowded calendar.
A well-worn football adage states that you should never return to a former club, but Sharjah’s new “oldie” should not have any worries. Bashir last donned the venerable club’s colours in 2004 and was part of the team that a year earlier sealed the President’s Cup. In securing the experienced left-back, the newly promoted side have added a calming presence in defence. Shrewd from coach Paulo Bonamigo, who knows Bashir well having managed him at Al Jazira. Helped Ajman to Etisalat Cup success last season.
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