Al Jazira hope to convince misfit playmaker Thiago Neves to reluctantly end seven miserable months with them and accept Al Ahli Jeddah’s offer so they can potentially pursue a new foreign defender.
Neves, 30, has been a huge disappointment since he completed a €11 million (Dh44.1m) move from Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal this summer.
His underwhelming displays have prompted the Abu Dhabi-based club to look elsewhere to halt their slide towards the relegation places before the closure of the winter transfer window on January 25.
But the main obstacles to a space being cleared in the four-player, non-Emirati quota are Neves’ firm reticence to play for another Saudi Professional League outfit and desire to prove himself in the UAE.
The Brazil international feels a keen sense of loyalty to the Crescent, after making 104 appearances for them in two spells from 2009-11 and 2013-15. The terms contained in the three-year contract signed in June will also be difficult to match for any team in his home country.
In a interview published yesterday in Al Ittihad newspaper, the ex-Flamengo and Hamburg star also stressed his desire to turn Jazira’s woeful campaign around.
He said: “I suffer along with the Al Jazira fans and I ask for forgiveness. But I promise that we will keep showing pride of Al Jazira and make the fans smile again. We are going back and we need all the supporters with us.”
The Pride of Abu Dhabi could still decide to sideline Neves and purchase a much-needed defensive addition, yet this would be a significant waste of money.
Neves’ downgrading was exemplified during Friday’s 2-2 draw at Al Wasl which saw the club move only three points clear of the drop zone in 10th.
For new boss Henk Ten Cate’s first game in charge, the Dutchman moved him into an unaccustomed defensive-midfield spot which allowed debutant Angel Lafita – who joined this month from Spain’s Getafe – to take up his attacking-midfield role.
Neves opened the scoring with a deflected free-kick for just his fourth AGL goal in 14 matches, but was otherwise anonymous.
Cardiff City loanee Kenwyne Jones also made his bow up top during the game and he could be joined by a new defender. The club previously studied Montenegro and Lille veteran Marko Basa, 33, last term and he remains a target under review.
The situation surrounding injured summer buy Jefferson Farfan is unclear. The Peru international – a €6m (Dh24.4m) purchase from Schalke 04 – has been sidelined since he underwent surgery on an ankle injury and isn’t expected back until mid-February, at the earliest.
Change is sweeping through Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium as they attempt to arrest the dramatic decline from being second-placed finishers in 2014-15. This was initiated by the disastrous call to ditch Eric Gerets and hand Abel Braga a second spell in charge.
After the Brazilian was sacked last month, Ten Cate oversaw a dogged performance at fourth-placed Al Wasl upon his bow and he vowed to drag the team up to a higher position where “we belong”.
He said: “What we have to achieve is to play better football with the team and get more points. The points are the most important.
“We are down, we are down. We are very close to the relegation zone and I do not want to be in there.
“Our first objective is to get away from those positions as quickly as possible, without even playing good football. I don’t care as long as we win and get the three points – this is the first objective.
“We do not have the team to be there, to be honest. I do not think we belong there, we belong higher up – this is our first aim.
“Our focus will lie on the next game against Sharjah at home (on January 22). This is our next aim and to continue game-by-game.”
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