football

Ahmad Khalil joins Al Jazira from Al Ahli on a free transfer

UAE striker finally leaves Dubai for Abu Dhabi after months of speculation

15:16 July 17, 2017
Ahmed Khalil

Abu Dhabi: UAE striker Ahmad Khalil has joined Al Jazira on a free transfer from Dubai’s Al Ahli, it was confirmed in a statement on the Abu Dhabi club’s website on Monday.

The 26-year-old 2015 Asian Player of the Year was also pictured on the club’s official twitter feed meeting up with the Arabian Gulf League holders before flying to The Netherlands for pre-season training.

“To join the Pride of Abu Dhabi is a new challenge,” said Khalil, who scored 72 goals in 179 appearances for Al Ahli, winning two UAE league titles, since 2006.

“I thank everyone who has supported me in my past period and hope the Abu Dhabi fans provide the same support for me and my new teammates. We will try to achieve together.

“Al Jazira is a club capable of competing well in the most important tournaments and is a sporting project with future ambition, which is enough motivation for any player.”

Khalil, who has 47 goals in 88 appearances with the UAE national team, winning the Gulf Cup in 2013 and finishing third at the 2015 Asian Cup, has only ever played for Al Ahli, but had become the subject of intense interest from Al Jazira in recent months.

After a surprise merger was announced between his former club Al Ahli, Al Shabab and Dubai Club in May to form Al Shabab Ahli Dubai Club, his exit seemed inevitable.

Henk ten Cate’s Al Jazira have also confirmed the signing of Uzbek striker Sardor Rashidov and Brazilian striker Romarinho, who are both free transfers after being released by Qatar’s El Jaish. This follows the earlier signing of French former Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra on a free transfer from France’s Marseille, while Moroccan midfielder Mubarak Boussoufa has been retained.

Brazilians Ailton Almeida and Leonardo have both left Al Jazira for the UAE’s Al Dhafra and Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr respectively, while South Korean midfielder Park Jung-woo is also set to leave the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium.

Elsewhere, new Al Nasr coach Cesare Prandelli has announced that the Dubai club are looking to replace French striker Jires Kembo Ekoko after having decided to retain Brazilian striker Wanderley Santos, Moroccan midfielder Abdel Aziz Barrada and Lebanese defender Joan Oumari.

“The focus is now on bringing a foreign player to replace Kembo Ekoko,” said the former Italy boss. “We have no problem with the matter, but we have to be sure of our choice and do it carefully.”

Meanwhile, Al Wasl have refused to negotiate with Qatari clubs after it was reported Al Rayyan put in a €10 million (Dh42.1 million) offer for their Brazilian striker Fabio de Lima.

The move follows a boycott of Qatar by the UAE and five other Arab nations since June 5, after Qatar was accused of supporting terrorism.

“The club does not intend to dispense with the services of the player, especially to the Qatari clubs. It is our responsibility to categorically reject dealing with any club, institution or sports body in Qatar in any way,” read a statement from Al Wasl.