Richard Manga, the top scorer in the Saudi Arabian league last season, has signed a one-year contract with Al Shabab Club.
Sankha Khar/Gulf News
Senegal footballer Richard Manga will be plying his trade in the UAE after joining Dubai's Al Shabab club in the new season.
"After a strong show during the last season, it is now time for us to take a step forward. And we believe Richard Manga is here to help us realise our potential as one of the best clubs in the UAE," confided Al Shabab coach, Djemal Hadji.
Under the tutelage of Hadji, Al Shabab were off to a slow start, which culminated into a stronger showing towards the end to snatch sixth place in the UAE National Football League.
"We were missing something in front of the goal, and Manga's experience will hopefully go a long way in helping us achieve our goal," the coach added.
Manga, on the other hand, was instrumental in aiding Saudi Arabian club Al Shabab to the top of the standings over the last two seasons.
He scored 15 goals in 22 games last season to come out as the topscorer in the Saudi Arabian League. During the previous season, the gifted Senegal striker had ended second best with 13 goals in 19 matches.
"We know we need a scorer, especially during the big games against Al Wahda and Al Ain. We should have, or rather, could have won against these more famous teams, if we had had a striker," Hadji reflected.
With Manga's arrival, Al Shabab have agreed to release Rodrigo, while keeping the services of their talented second foreign player, Geraldo. "I think Geraldo and Richard will be the perfect combination. And with Salim Sa'ad being a perfect provider, Al Shabab will be a tough club to handle," Hadji predicted.
Manga, who turns 33 at the end of this year, has eight caps as a regular with the Senegal national team.
"I do not come here with many expectations. All I want to do is to have such a club like Al Shabab back to their glory days," Manga said.
Manga started his career with AS Douane during the Senegal Cup back home in 1994.
For the next three seasons, he turned up in Tunisia, coming out as the topscorer in all three seasons.
"I am aware that this club and its supporters will have a lot of expectations from me. I will do my best to give off more than a 100 per cent," he added.
Mats Thyren, the agent for Manga, was pleased that a great club like Al Shabab had agreed to the deal. "Richard comes here with a whole load of experience. He has spent time in Tunisia, Senegal and closer here in Saudi Arabia. I am confident he will be a huge success here, both on and off the field," Thyren said.
Al Shabab to start preparations
Al Shabab will play a series of five friendlies during the course of their summer training camp in Italy later this week.
The training camp is part of the team's preparations for the forthcoming season. "Our emphasis is to build the team for the future," coach Djemal Hadji said.
"A lot of emphasis during the camp will be towards having a compact unit for the future," the coach added.
The squad is scheduled to leave from Dubai on July 21. Their first practice match will be on July 28.