x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Maradona eyes Uruguay striker as first signing for Al Wasl

A Wasl spokesman is confident a deal can be reached soon for Juan Manuel Olivera with his club Atletico Penarol.

Maradona has been scouting for talent on the sideline of Copa America with Olivera his first choice.
Maradona has been scouting for talent on the sideline of Copa America with Olivera his first choice.

DUBAI // Juan Manuel Olivera will be central to the outcome of Al Wasl’s first season under the guidance of Diego Maradona, according to club officials.

The Dubai outfit asked Atletico Penarol for permission to speak to the 29-year-old Uruguayan striker in the early hours of this morning, and they hope a deal can be struck by the time Maradona arrives at the start of next month.

Al Wasl media officials said that they expected to hear from Atletico Penarol over the next few days about whether they would be receptive to any offer for the experienced goal-scorer.

“Coach Maradona told us late on Wednesday night that he would like us to send a request to Penarol about the possibility of us signing Olivera,” a Wasl spokesman said.

“As of yet, we do not know how much he would cost or whether he has any clause in his contract that would allow us to buy it out. We will find this out soon enough, although the time difference between here and South America is a factor when it comes to these negotiations, so it will take a bit longer than usual.”

The tall and powerful Olivera, who stands 1.91m, has played for nine clubs in eight countries, including a spell with the Saudi side Al Shabab, last year.

His best season came with Universidad de Chile in 2009 when he helped them win the league title, their first trophy in five years. He scored 24 goals and followed it up with a tally of 19.

The move to Saudi Arabia surprised many in South America, but he was soon back home in Montevideo with Penarol, for whom he scored 10 goals in 24 league games last season.

Despite scoring 111 goals since 2001, Olivera has never appeared with Uruguay’s national side.

“The coach has been an admirer of this player for some time,” the Wasl spokesman said. “You have to remember that Mr Maradona will not know 90 per cent of his new team so he will need to sign players he knows and trusts.

“I understand that the coach sees Olivera as someone who will be absolutely key to the way he wants to set up the team for next season.”

Olivera is likely to resume his partnership with Edson Puch, the Chilean midfielder who was the club’s first signing of the summer. The pair played together Universidad de Chile.

Puch is unlikely to join his new teammates for Sunday’s first training session because of a “mix-up with a travel agent”.

“Edson Puch was already signed before we appointed Maradona, as was Mohammad Shaiba, of Oman, who is our Asian player, and we told the coach that he would 100 per cent make the decision about how to fill the remaining two spaces we have for foreign players,” the spokesman added.

“Olivera is 29, but the coach believes there is still a lot of potential for him to improve. He has played with some big South American clubs and has always scored goals.”

Wasl, meanwhile, are still waiting to receive an official bid for Francisco Yeste, their Spanish midfielder who has been linked with the Greek side Olympiakos.

“Yeste has gone and we will make sure to respect him and his agent’s wishes about where he will go next,” the spokesman said.

ncameron@thenational.ae


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