x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Matar 'is staying' at Al Wahda

UAE international Ismail Matar will not be leaving Al Wahda this summer, despite serious interest from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Ismail Matar, a key member of the national team, is one of only three Emirati footballers to have played professionally outside the UAE. Despite interest in Matar, the Al Wahda striker is expected to stay for now.
Ismail Matar, a key member of the national team, is one of only three Emirati footballers to have played professionally outside the UAE. Despite interest in Matar, the Al Wahda striker is expected to stay for now.

ABU DHABI // UAE international Ismail Matar will not be leaving Al Wahda this summer, despite serious interest from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. "Ismail Matar is staying at the club, for sure," said Wahda's assistant chief executive Khaled Awadh. Following a recent two-week loan spell to Qatar, the Abu Dhabi club received a formal letter of interest for the player. Rumours have also surfaced in recent weeks of a potential bid for the player from a Saudi Arabian team.

Matar, a striker and a key member of the national team, is one of only three Emirati players to have played professionally outside the UAE. Despite interest in the player, Awadh is adamant Matar will stay in the capital for the immediate future. "We have an official letter from Qatar, but nothing official from Saudi Arabia; but, we want to keep him," said Awadh. "When he went to play for two weeks in Qatar, because he had a very good team of foreigners he made a hell of a change in one game," Awadh said. "If he has the chance to play with Fernando Baiano and a good goalkeeper, and the young generation of players we have coming through, he will do even better. I'm sure he can have a better season with us this year."

Last week Al Wahda sealed a deal to bring the Brazilian striker, Baiano to the club from city rivals Al Jazira. The Pro League's top scorer had talks with Jazira about staying at the club, but moved to Wahda for an undisclosed fee when a deal fell through. "He is worth the price-tag," said Awadh. "Just to say he was the top scorer last season is to say he is the guy for us. In Al Wahda we needed a guy like this, a guy to finish and score the goals. We have good players, local and foreigners, they can get the ball inside the box, but we were missing someone who could finish these chances.

"Baiano is the guy we were looking for. Hopefully he can continue his form for us next season." Having also confirmed the services of Al Ain goalkeeper Mutaz Abdulla next season, Awadh said the team have the right balance and depth to make a strong challenge for the championship. "In the team we have some young players at the moment," said Awadh. "Baiano, they will respect him, he was the top scorer from last year and he is a very good player. He will give good personality and leadership to the team. This is what we need on the field and we are looking forward to these new players bringing that to the team.

"By having a good goalkeeper and a good scorer the rest of the team will have more confidence. When you feel confidence in your goalkeeper players feel more encouraged to push forward and score; and, with Baiano up front they know there is someone there who can finish. "We are looking forward to having one more foreign player with this type of leadership skills too. We are in negotiations with somebody at the moment, although I cannot say who."

Despite finishing the season 21 points adrift of league champions Al Ahli, Awadh has his sights set on claiming the 2010 Pro League title - and qualification for the Club World Cup, being help in the capital later this year, in which Al Ahli will play, and again next year. "Our main goal is to be in the 2010 Club World Cup. We want to be in this competition and play against these big names. This is a once in life chance," he said

"It is great to have these big names, like Barcelona, play in the UAE. We shall enjoy watching them and see them play Al Ahli this year, and then next year hopefully we shall be on the bench. Our goal next year is to be champions and to go out of the UAE and play. We had a good experience playing in the Asia Cup this year; hopefully we will do the same next year." zgriffiths@thenational.ae