Fulham striker Andy Johnson on his way to UAE?
Johnson, 31, is out of contract at Craven Cottage this summer and his representative, Anthony McFarlane, has revealed he is “very interested” in a move to the Emirates. “It’s something he has firmly been thinking about. He is now 31, and he has never been in this situation in his career where he is available on a Bosman,” said McFarlane.
“His mind is open and he’s looking at all his options, both here in England and abroad. He is keen on a new challenge and very interested in a move to the UAE provided the offer is right. He’s married, he’s got two kids and a move to the UAE would provide a nice lifestyle and a new experience for AJ and his family.”
Newly-crowned champions Al Ain have been credited with an interest having been linked with the player in the past while Etisalat Cup winners Al Ahli have also been mooted as a potential destination.
McFarlane, though, has refused to be drawn on the identity of the clubs keen on Johnson, who has also enjoyed spells at Birmingham, Crystal Palace and Everton during his career. “There have been no concrete offers as such at this moment in time, but there has been strong interest from a number of clubs in the gulf area, including a couple from the UAE,” he said.
Johnson, capped eight times by England, is also looking at options in the US, China and in England, but McFarlane hints that Dubai is his preferred destination as he and his family know the city well. “Without a doubt, he is looking at it [a move to the UAE]. It’s just a case of weighing up his options and making sure he joins the right club,” he said.
“This hasn’t come out of the blue. Andy has been on holiday with his family a number of times to Dubai. He is familiar with the city. He knows where to go, how to get about and the culture of the people. It would be like a home from home. The majority of people speak English; all the road signs are in English. It would be a great place for him and his family to go.
He added: “First and foremost it is for footballing reasons and secondly it has to be right for his family. He is going to go somewhere where his children and wife can settle quickly, where there are English speaking schools, a good quality of life and where he can enjoy his football and enjoy family life.
“All those things come hand in hand when you mention the UAE where as some other places I’m not so sure that would be the case so that is why so attractive open to him."
The profile of the Pro League has undoubted;y received a boost in the last 12 months with the arrival of Diego Maradona as Al Wasl boss and former Premier League stars Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain) and Lucas Neill (Al Jazira).
But how much does Johnson know about the UAE’s top-flight? “He is aware as he can be of the Pro League," said McFarlane. “He knows people who work at different clubs there.
"He has seen a little bit of the football and knows a little bit of the standard. He has a good understanding of what he’d be letting himself in for. I’m sure if was to come out to the UAE and play, his new club and fans would love him.”