While many of us have settled into our summer routine (staying indoors and complaining about the heat), the UAE’s Olympians (of the football-playing variety, that is) have been enjoying the sunny climes of Switzerland. How that fresh Alpine air is helping them with their Olympic preparations, however, remains to be seen – the UAE were thumped 4-2 by an under-strength Ukrainian Shakhtar Donetsk in their latest pre-Olympic game. They’ll be hoping for better luck in their remaining friendlies against international opposition – Gabon, Romania’s Olympic team, Honduras and New Zealand.
On the domestic front, Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan has signed a permanent deal with Dubai team Al Ain. Gyan was initially on loan from English Premier League side Sunderland, but soon got a taste for the fast-paced, high-octane style of play in the UAE Pro-League (and, perhaps, Dubai’s twinkling nightspots) and has signed a four-year deal thought to be worth around Dhs74 million (GBP13 million). One English Premier League striker who won’t be coming to the UAE, despite a brief yet excitable chorus of rumours, is Michael Owen. The Manchester United benchwarmer had been linked with Al Shabaab. However, the Dubai-based club’s vice-president Khalid Bu Humaid was quoted by press as saying that the former England star was on the ‘downhill’. Things must be worse for Owen than we thought.
Over in England, Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City are once again loitering with intent outside the gates of Ashburton Grove in North London – after his first injury-free season at Arsenal, captain Robin van Persie has decided the club doesn’t share his ‘ambitions’ and has refused a new contract. While he’s currently waxing lyrical about his footballing values rather than his wages, The Insider reckons we’ll see him follow Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Abedyor, Samir Nasri, and Gael Clichy to City’s Etihad Stadium. Watch this space.