x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Oladi staring at the exit

The Iranian, a hero with the Shabab fans, has finished his two-year contract with the club and has several lucrative offers from elsewhere.

DUBAI // Mehrdad Oladi is facing a Shakespearean dilemma. His heart is torn between his love for Al Shabab and his loathe to stay on at the club after perceived injustices. The Iranian, a hero with the Shabab fans, has finished his two-year contract with the club and has several lucrative offers from elsewhere, but a part of him wants to stay on.

"I really, really love this club and I have always given my best for the team, every time I have been given an opportunity," said the 24-year-old forward, who is blessed with superb technical and dribbling skills. "I could continue, but I think maybe they don't want me." The "they", according to club sources, refers to coach Toninho Cerezo, who dumped him in the reserves for most of the first-half of the season.

"Everybody knows what happened to me here at the start of the season," added Oladi. "I was also hurt by the way they treated me when I was injured. Their attitude towards me was not very good. "But I don't know anything yet, so it is best I don't say anything at this moment. I wish Shabab all the best, whether I am here or not. A part of my heart will always be with them." As Shabab struggled in the first-half of the season, with just 10 points from 11 games, Cerezo was forced to make the changes and he brought Oladi into the fold.

The Iranian responded immediately, working tirelessly for the team as they climbed their way up the Pro League table. His hard work, coupled with his class, endeared him to officials and fans alike. Oladi was Shabab's best man on the pitch in virtually every game, scoring seven goals and providing numerous assists as the defending champions finished fifth on a respectable 34 points. Yet, Cerezo remained unconvinced. Recently, the Brazilian commented: "When Oladi plays for the team, he is very good. But sometimes he plays for himself and then it creates a lot of problems."

Such public condemnation from the coach has convinced Oladi he needs to move on. A club official revealed that Oladi was in tears when he spoke to his colleagues after the end of the season. According to the official, Cerezo would say he wanted Oladi to stay in meetings with the club officials, but when alone with the player, the Brazilian would tell him he is not needed. As Cerezo rejected him, Oladi has found admirers at Al Wasl and Al Nasr who are keen to grab the unsettled striker. There has also been interest from his homeland and some teams in Europe too.

"I am talking to Wasl and Nasr and let's see what happens," he said. "They are both top sides and I have a lot of respect for them.I also have offers from Iran and from some clubs in Germany as well. "But it is too early to say anything. Let's see what happens. I have to think about my future and make this decision. My future is very important to me. "I want to improve my football and grow as a player, and that will eventually be the final consideration when I decide my next destination."

Oladi's impressive performances during the season have also earned him a call to the Iranian national team for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. "I have been included in the team for the UAE game," he said. "I thank God for it. I want the national team to do better and I will try my best to contribute towards that. "Training with this team also helped me a lot. We have some very good players and I hope Shabab do better next season. We can win the championship again like last year.

"This year also we did well and reached the final of the President's Cup and kept alive our hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the Asian Champions League until the final game. "So it has been a very important season for us, but I believe we can do a lot better than this." Oladi still uses "we" and "us" when he refers to Shabab, showing his depth of dedication to the side. Cerezo, however, has other plans and there seems no place for the Iranian in them. Shabab's loss than should be Wasl or Nasr's gain.

arizvi@thenational.ae