x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Winter transfer signings tend to turn up the heat more than summer arrivals in Pro League

Baniyas seem unlucky with the expatriate stars they bring in at the start of the season - but invariably get it right in the winter transfer window.

Christian Wilhelmsson joined Pro League club Baniyas in the winter transfer window. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo
Christian Wilhelmsson joined Pro League club Baniyas in the winter transfer window. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo

Last season it was David Trezeguet and this time it is Mohamed Zidan. Baniyas seem to be unlucky with the expatriate stars they bring in at the start of the season. Invariably, however, they get it right in the winter transfer window.

Trezeguet, a World Cup winner with France, was injured in his opening league game for Baniyas and made just one more appearance before claiming he could not continue because of his injury.

Their contract, signed on August 30, was mutually terminated on November 21. But in the next 18 days, Trezeguet made a miraculous recovery from his injury and signed for the Argentine club River Plate.

Nobody at Baniyas missed him, though, as Francisco Yeste arrived in January and won over the fans.

Zidan was also injured in his opening game for Baniyas and though he played a lot more matches - nine in the Pro League and two in the Etisalat Cup - the Egyptian just could not recreate the magic he had shown in Germany.

And then he pulled out of their last Pro League game - a 2-1 win at Kalba - claiming an injury that the club's medical team, and even an independent check-up, failed to confirm.

Frustrated with Zidan's behaviour, Baniyas made a second bid to convince Mohamed Aboutrika to join them and this time the 34 year old agreed. His club, Cairo's Al Ahly, needed the money and the Egyptian great signed a six-month loan deal.

Aboutrika's arrival is certain to put Baniyas in the spotlight and lead to an increase in attendance at their matches.

The Egyptian was named "The World's Most Popular Footballer" among active players for two successive years, 2007 and 2008, by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, and the Ultras Ahlawy residing here will certainly be there at the matches to support him.

Aboutrika and Swede Christian Wilhelmsson, the club's other new arrival, each have more than 15 years of club football behind them and a joint total 179 international caps. They have been to World Cups, Olympics and continental championships, and won titles at every level. Their presence, then, will be a huge boost for the promising youngsters at Baniyas.

At the other end of the spectrum, Al Shaab have made their own investment in experience during the transfer window and the club will be hoping the likes of Faisal Khalil and Mutaz Abdullah will help them survive in the Pro League.

The Sharjah club, who are level on seven points with Kalba and Dibba Al Fujairah at the bottom of the table, have also brought in the experience of the Zimbabwean defender Noel Kaseke and Filipe Teixeira, a Portuguese midfielder.

On first impressions, they look a lot more organised with the new additions and that is certainly not good news for Dibba and Kalba … or even Al Wasl.

Just over a year ago, Wasl were the best-known UAE club, making headlines around the globe because of the presence of a certain Diego Maradona as their manager.

The players, except Majed Naser perhaps, had taken a back seat as the Argentine legend held centre stage.

In the end, those two were the fall guys. And both kept warning about the lack of talent at the club, but nobody seemed to be listening. While the other top clubs brought in promising youngsters to strengthen their squad, Wasl introduced one washed-up player after another.

That policy has come back to haunt them. Wasl might seem in a good position at the moment with 17 points, but Sharjah could manage just one win and only five points from their last 16 league matches last season, and finished at the bottom of the points table.

For Wasl, the threat of relegation still looms.

 

arizvi@thenational.ae

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