x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Shabab deny Emerson link

Al Shabab have brushed aside speculation linking them to the Brazil-born Qatari striker Marcio Emerson Passos.

DUBAI // Al Shabab have brushed aside speculation linking them to the Brazil-born Qatari striker Marcio Emerson Passos. Emerson, who is without a club after parting ways with Qatar's Al Sadd last month, was in Dubai last week and his visit to Al Shabab fuelled speculations of a move to the Maktoum Stadium, where his "long-time" friend Toninho Cerezo is coach. The Shabab team manager Obaid al Hubaitha, however, insists there has been no formal talks with Emerson and he was just on a personal visit to the club. "There are a lot of rumours going around," said al Hubaitha. "Until now there has been no official contact. He is a friend of our Brazilian players and he stopped over to say hello to them on his way to Brazil. "He is a good player and I am sure there is every chance that he might get an offer from the clubs here. Everybody knows him and every club would like to have a player like Emerson. "But I repeat, he was just passing through and nothing officially has happened between us and him. So far, nobody has sat with him to talk about a deal." Cerezo has known Emerson since his days in Japan, where the striker scored 71 goals in 100 appearances for Urawa Red Diamonds. Cerezo was manager of the Kashima Antlers. "We have been friends for a long time," said Cerezo. "After finishing off from his engagements in Qatar, Emerson just wanted to have a little break in Dubai. So, we are very good friends and that is all, until now." Both Cerezo and al Hubaitha, however, concede they would love to have him in the squad. "It is still early, I believe, to decide for the next season," said al Hubaitha. "But if he does come to our club, I think he will be a great addition." "There is a long time till the next registration period," added Cerezo. "We are still awaiting a final decision on the new directors and board for the club. So things have to go step-by-step." His exploits in the J League helped Emerson seal a move to Al Sadd in 2005 and he was voted the Most Valuable Player of 2006 in the Qatari league. He also played a pivotal role in Sadd's record-breaking season of 2007, when they clinched all four domestic competitions. The controversial 30-year-old striker accepted Qatari citizenship in 2008 and played for the national team in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. Emerson was, however, ineligible to play for Qatar since he had already played for the Brazilian Under 20 team in the 1999 South American Youth Championship and Iraq protested to Fifa. The world governing body accepted Qatar's excuse that they were not aware of Emerson's appearance for the Brazilian youth team and threw out Iraq's protest.

arizvi@thenational.ae