x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Transfer talk: Al Shabab look at Ronaldinho interest in UAE move

Twice Fifa World Player of the Year reportedly keen on playing in Arabian Gulf League, but deal is subject to financial agreement, writes John McAuley.

Ronaldinho is twice Fifa World Player of the Year.
Ronaldinho is twice Fifa World Player of the Year.

DUBAI // Al Shabab claim they are investigating options to fund an ambitious attempt to sign the twice Fifa World Player of the Year Ronaldinho from Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro.

The Dubai club have been in contact with Roberto de Assis, the player’s brother who also acts as his agent, and have reportedly been informed they would need to pay €6 million (Dh28.7m) per season in wages to secure the Brazilian’s signature.

While the figure represents a significant outlay for an Arabian Gulf League side, Shabab are exploring the possibility of using a third party to sponsor the agreement.

Despite Ronaldinho, 33, no longer representing a major European club – he spanned nine years across Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan – he remains one of football’s most recognisable names, with a personal fortune last year estimated at $90m (Dh330.5m).

It is debatable whether Shabab would be able to generate the funds to acquire the 2002 World Cup winner, although a source at the Rashid bin Maktoum Stadium revealed the club are optimistic a compromise can be reached.

The Shabab official stated Ronaldinho’s camp, too, have highlighted his desire to continue his career in the UAE, and cited Dubai as his preferred destination. The player also knows Marcos Paqueta, his compatriot coach at Shabab, and is said to be enthused by the presence at the club of fellow Brazilians Ciel and Edgar Bruno.

Shabab already have four foreign players registered for the 2013/14 season but, should they convince Ronaldinho to join, they will seek to sell Carlos Villanueva, the Chilean who only recently returned from a four-month loan spell in his homeland. Azizbek Haydarov, the Uzbekistan midfielder, holds the Asian player spot.

When asked about the chances of recruiting Ronaldinho, Mohammed Al Meri, a Shabab board member, said: “Ronaldinho would be a great asset not only to Al Shabab but also to the Arabian Gulf League because of his fame, international experience and the interest he would create worldwide.

“The club is dealing with the offer very seriously and we are exploring ways in which we can make it a reality.”

Speculation linking Ronaldinho to UAE football is nothing new, as in 2010 Al Ahli’s Fabio Cannavaro suggested the playmaker team up with him at the Rashid Stadium. A year later he was rumoured to be in talks with Sharjah.

There are obvious obstacles to Shabab’s chances of signing Ronaldinho, though. Although he was overlooked for Brazil’s recent Confederations Cup squad, the 97-capped Brazil international still harbours hope of making next summer’s World Cup, which takes place in his homeland. Swapping the top tier of Brazilian football for the Arabian Gulf League would be seen as detrimental to those aspirations.

And, even though Shabab’s vice-chairman, Khalid Bu Humaid, stated yesterday the deal had a “50-50 chance” of happening, the club did openly court England striker Michael Owen last summer before conceding it was “a bit of a show … more for publicity.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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