x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ricardo Oliveira's quiet return to Jazira

There is little brouhaha this time around as the Brazilian rejoins Al Jazira for league and cup push.

Al Jazira's Ricardo Oliveira, in white, is tackled in a match against Al Ain last season. Sammy Dallal / The National
Al Jazira's Ricardo Oliveira, in white, is tackled in a match against Al Ain last season. Sammy Dallal / The National

When Ricardo Oliveira arrived in Abu Dhabi as the Pro League's most expensive signing last season, he received a spectacular welcome.

The Brazilian forward, whose signature cost Al Jazira Dh72.5million, was paraded on a stage as a laser show, loud pop music and television footage of him in action for clubs such as AC Milan and Valencia played around him.

A giant poster of him hung from a ceiling as hundreds of school children with his name on their Jazira shirts cheered him when he was officially introduced. This was more than the red-carpet treatment.

However, there was no such welcome this time around, as he rejoined Jazira. He had to cut short a loan spell with Sao Paulo, the Brazilian club with whom he had spent half a season as part of his rehabilitation after a knee injury he suffered towards the second half of last season in the UAE.

Oliveira has replaced Tony, the club's Ivorian forward, in the mid-season transfer window that runs from January 3 to 23.

The change was not surprising after a below-par performance from Jazira's foreign signings: Tony, Bare, the Brazilian striker, and Matias Delgado, the Argentine midfielder.

Abel Braga, the Jazira coach, in his third season with the club and one of the longest-serving managers in the Pro League, said Oliveira is not match fit after a layoff, but he expects him to be ready to join the line-up on January 21 away to Al Shabab in the final group-stage match of the Etisalat Cup.

Jazira are the defending champions of the Etisalat Cup and the results of their match against Al Wasl on Saturday and at Al Shabab are crucial for their qualification to the semi-finals.

"We will go all out to win the next two games because we want to defend our title," Braga said. "We will play the strongest available team and bring in Ricardo for the next game. He will also have the benefit of playing a match before the league resumes in February."

Braga said Oliveira's time back in Brazil was good for him.

"There is no better place for him to go and recuperate his fitness and confidence than back in Brazil. He certainly knows of the high expectations and I am sure he has returned better prepared and with a better idea of the UAE game.

"He is ready to fulfil the club's ambition and repay the fans and the club management for the faith they have had in signing him."

Oliveira and Bare will be expected to play a role similar to the successful partnership Fernando Baiano and Rafael Sobis formed in the 2009/10 season.

Sobis played behind Baiano and provided the striker with many opportunities.

Sobis, who also suffered a knee injury that required surgery, is on loan until June with Internacional, his native Brazilian club.

Oliveira has the potential to form a successful partnership with Bare, a summer signing from Dubai's Al Ahli who seems to have regained his goal-scoring touch, with seven goals in the past four league games.

Oliveira is fast and creative and with Bare, who is strong inside the area, the new combination may work for Braga's side in the second half of the season.

Jazira are chasing their first league title and look to be well on the way to achieving it, heading the table on 29 points, five more than Baniyas, their nearest rivals. The chasing pack is 12 points behind with Ahli and Wasl on 17 each. Al Wahda, the defending champions, are in seventh place.

Said Braga: "We are in a good position after the first half of the league, but we still have 11 more games and that's going to be hard. Nevertheless, it is the best chance we have to win the league.

"Ricardo rejoins us at a time when the league takes a break because of the national team players are at the Asian Cup, so he has enough time to adapt and adjust. He is no stranger in the club, yet he needs time with the new players around him."

Oliveira has an impressive CV and returns with something to prove to his fans, which he could not do last time around. He would also like to be a part of a history-making side and his contribution will be measured on the success his team have in the second half of the season.

apassela@thenational.ae