UAE will not take Oman lightly in Gulf Cup final

UAE players celebrate after beating Iraq on penalties in the Gulf Cup semifinals in Kuwait. (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2018
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UAE will not take Oman lightly in Gulf Cup final

DUBAI: Ahmed Khalil says the fact UAE won the opening Gulf Cup group game with Oman will count for very little when the two side’s collide again on Friday with the prize of the 23rd Gulf Cup at stake.
UAE reached the final of the prestigious regional competition for the third time in a decade with a dramatic penalty shootout win over Iraq and they will be firm favorites for the match at Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium as they are 28 places above the Reds in the FIFA rankings and have a greater pedigree. But Khalil is not counting any chickens.
“Of course, it will be a tough game in the final,” the striker said. “We play against Oman, who we played in the first match, but this is a final, this is different. It’s true that we won the first game, but they are so strong, they are fast, they play very well on the counter-attack. We have to concentrate. We have to continue like this, we have to work. It’s just one game.
“We hope every player takes this point: that it is a final, that it’s not the same as every game. We have to do all our best and come back to our country as the champions. Friday is the final stop in our route to the title, and we will give our best against Oman. Winning is the most important thing for us, and whenever we see our fans’ happiness, it gives us the energy to work harder and try to bring joy to the UAE people.”
Omar Abdulrahman, the Al-Ain playmaker, brings unbridled joy to the Emiratis with his wizardry and the stage is set for him to light up Friday’s final.
“I’m not the only star in this team — we are as a team, we all help each other,” Abdulrahman said. “Our target was to reach the final and we have done that. So it’s a new step for us. We have to concentrate. We know the Oman team; we played against them.”
UAE beat Oman in Group A on Dec. 22 yet Oman actually topped the group as UAE could only muster goalless draws with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In fact, the UAE have only mustered one goal in 390 minutes of football — and that was an Ali Mabkhout penalty, leading to criticism of the cautious style under new coach Alberto Zaccheroni.
“I understand people say the UAE team didn’t play well, but it’s a new tactic, a new style of playing with an Italian coach and we have to understand what he wants from us,” Abdulrahman said. “We are trying to put into practice what he tells us. In the next game we have to correct the mistakes we made in the semifinal and we have to be 100 percent concentrated. I’m optimistic we’re going to win this trophy and come back to the UAE happy.”
UAE are two months into life under Zaccheroni, who replaced Edgardo Bauza who, of course, left to join Saudi Arabia. Under Zaccheroni’s watch, UAE have only conceded one goal in seven matches and are on a six-match unbeaten run, losing only to Haiti in his first game.
“I have only been here for a couple of months and I am looking to improve,” he said. “Our strikers did very well, even though they were not fully ready. We need more time to work together and build a strong side. We are gradually improving and that’s what matters.”
Zaccheroni has won Serie A with AC Milan, the Asian Cup with Japan and now gets the chance this weekend to add the Gulf Cup to his coaching CV. He feels his side might be at a slight disadvantage to Oman as they kicked off later than their opponents, thus giving them less rest time, and also had to contest a physically-demanding extra time and then the mental challenge of penalties.
“Playing 120 minutes is a tough load on the players, so we need to recover after playing every two day,” he said. “Oman are an organized side who play a modern brand of football. They qualified top of the group, but we beat them in the first match.”


Wolverhampton Wanderers deny wrongdoing over Ruben Neves transfer

Updated 19 April 2018
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Wolverhampton Wanderers deny wrongdoing over Ruben Neves transfer

  • Neves has been a star man and key to Wolves' promotion to the Premier League.
  • Portugal international moved to Molineux lsat summer from Porto.

The English Football League has sought documentation from FC Porto as part of an informal investigation into Wolverhampton Wanderers’ summer signing of Portugal international Ruben Neves.
The EFL has received complaints from a number of Championship clubs over the influence of Neves’ representatives Gestifute on a recruitment policy which has helped Wolves secure promotion to the Premier League.
According to a Porto source, the EFL has asked for details of the midfielder’s earnings at the Portuguese club amid reports that the 21-year-old has been on an annual salary of more than £2.3million ($3.2 million) since moving to England last July. Wolves signed Neves for a transfer fee of €16 million ($22.7 million), a record for the club.
Arab News has seen Neves’ contract at Porto and can report that his basic wage there was a modest €12,500 per month after-tax on a four-year deal that ran until 30 June 2019. In sterling terms, the contract — which included a release clause of €40 million — netted Neves just over £2,500 per week, a minimal figure for a full international.
According to a source familiar with the player’s move to Wolves, Neves has been paid “three or four times” his Porto salary by the Midlands club, yet still remains below its £25,000 per week wages ceiling. Neves, who was named this week in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, is on a fraction of the salary paid to the division’s highest earners, including former England captain John Terry at Aston Villa.
Fourth-placed Villa — owned by self-described “dollar billionaire” Tony Xia — are one of the clubs to complain to the EFL. Andrea Radrizzani, owner of 14th-placed Leeds United, is another. The Italian businessman complained on social media complain about Wolves owner Fosun International’s use of Gestifute as advisers on club business, shortly after his team’s 3-0 home loss in March.
“We have our own problems, but we should play in a fair competition,” wrote Radrizzani. “Not legal and fair (to) let one team owned by a fund whom has shares in the biggest players agency with evident benefits top European clubs giving players with options to buy...why the other 23 teams can’t have same treatment? We should play all 24 with the same rules and opportunities (it’s enough to google it). Congratulations to the best team but hope the league can be fair and equal to all 24 teams.”
Gestifute principal Jorge Mendes sold a minority shareholding in the agency to Fosun in 2015. The Chinese conglomerate took over Wolves in July 2016. Mendes recommended the appointment of manager Nuno Espirito Santo last summer, and has worked on deals to bring players such as Neves, Willy Boly, Diogo Jota, Roderick Miranda, Ruben Vinagre, Helder Cost and  Ivan Cavaleiro to the club.
According to a source familiar with the Neves transfer, Porto instructed Gestifute to find a buyer for the midfielder as the Portuguese club needed to raise funds in the transfer market. While Neves was offered to various Premier League and Championship clubs none were prepared to meet Porto’s asking price, regardless of the relatively low wages involved.
“If Wolves have brought in players such as Neves for £15m, he must be being paid as a player worth £15m should be,” complained an official at a rival club last month “It’s the same with others they have brought in from Monaco, Atletico Madrid and Valencia. None of these players would come on the cheap. Something doesn’t add up.”
The EFL told Arab News that it had recently met Wolves at the request of complainant members and was awaiting further correspondence from the club on the matter.
“We are very clear on FA and EFL regulations and always comply with them explicitly,” said Wolves following the recent complaints.
“We welcome any form of communication with the EFL to reiterate our position. We fully anticipate the release of a further EFL statement in support of Wolves and the club’s operations to bring a prompt resolution to this matter.”