Al Jazira are poised to stave off competition from a host of top European clubs and swoop for Marseille’s France midfielder Lassana Diarra.
According to reports in the French press, the former Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid man is in advanced negotiations with the Abu Dhabi-based Arabian Gulf League club.
France Football magazine has revealed that Monaco, Galatasaray, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain have been pursuing the 31-year-old, but said Jazira were in pole position to sign him.
And on Monday, France’s Maxifoot website reported that talks had been held between Jazira and Marseille over Diarra’s signature, with UAE clubs’ transfer window open until October 22.
It added: “The Abu Dhabi team has always seemed the hottest destination for the Paris native, who has always been anxious to leave OM [Olympique Marseille], despite his silence about his situation in recent days.
“If the Arabian Gulf club satisfy his wishes, Diarra would have no interest in being as greedy as he was before.”
Diarra’s alleged greed stems from his apparently extravagant wage demands to the Turkish giants, Galatasaray.
The Istanbul outfit’s sporting director, Levent Nazifoglu, claimed on Monday that he would have faced a dressing-room revolt had he accepted Diarra’s conditions for joining them.
“They [Diarra and his agent] asked for some very strange things,” Nazifoglu told Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News. “[They made] demands that would have created jealousy among the other players to whom we didn’t offer that. He said to me: ‘I want a house whose monthly rent is €30,000 (Dh122,870) and two cars worth at least €150,000 (Dh614,354)’.”
“We refused. We didn’t even start to negotiate.”
Despite the speculation over his future, Diarra was named Marseille’s captain following Steve Mandanda’s departure for Crystal Palace, leading the side in all three of their Ligue 1 fixtures so far this season.
Diarra has earned 33 caps for France since 2007 and was named in the France squad for Euro 2016 following an impressive debut season at Marseille, after not playing for his country for more than five years.
However, he missed the European Championship in his native land due to a knee injury.
Diarra, who began his career at Le Havre in 2004 and then spent three years combined at Chelsea and Arsenal, cemented himself as a player of renown with Real Madrid, making 87 appearances for the reigning European champions between 2009 and 2012.
But his career stalled at Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkala and Lokomotiv Moscow, before a resurgence with Marseille last season.
Diarra’s potential arrival at Jazira would end the club’s prolonged search for a midfielder this summer, having been beaten to the signing of the Belgium international Steven Defour by the Premier League new boys Burnley last month.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi were also interested in Standard Liege’s French midfielder Adrien Trebel.
Jazira are desperate to improve on last season’s disappointing seventh-place finish in the Arabian Gulf League.
They have snapped up Morocco playmaker Mbark Boussoufa on a free transfer after his contract expired at Lokomotiv Moscow, with UAE right-back Mohammad Fawzi joining from Al Ain plus centre midfielders Salem Abdullah and Humaid Ahmad from Al Wasl and Fujairah.
The Jazira coach, Henk ten Cate, currently has five foreigners on his books and he needs to cut this quota to four by October 22.
The Brazilian midfielder, Thiago Neves, has already expressed his desire to leave, while doubts persist about the future of the Peru winger Jefferson Farfan despite his fine form in the preseason training camps in the Netherlands and Germany.