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Sunderland boss Steve Bruce said Asamoah Gyan's decision to move was "baffling", but there have been a number of high-profile moves to the Pro-League ahead of the new season

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By Ben Somerford | Asian Football Editor


The new season in the UAE kicked off on Thursday with the commencement of the Emirates Cup, and while the new Pro-League campaign is still a month away, there's a fair dose of anticipation about the new term.

It's fair to say this off-season has been the biggest in UAE league history, with a series of high-profile names making the move to the Emirates for footballing reasons, including Argentine legend Diego Maradona and former France World Cup winner David Trezeguet.

Ghana international Asamoah Gyan was the latest to join the ranks earlier this week, and while Sunderland manager Steve Bruce may have described his decision to head to West Asia as "baffling" - hinting it was only based on financial reasons - he may not realise UAE Pro-League clubs have lured several talented footballers who are not yet past their prime this close season. It is a sign that the competition is on the rise.

As a result, with the new UAE season upon us, Goal.com looks at seven new arrivals ready to light up the league.

YASSER AL QAHTANI | Al Hilal to Al Ain

Age: 28
Position: Striker

Al Qahtani may be regarded as a relative unknown in the Western world, but in the Middle East he's a huge name.

The 28-year-old is Saudi Arabia's star striker with 87 caps and 44 international goals, although he seems to have lost favour with new Green Falcons boss Frank Rijkaard. However, he's still a star attraction after opting to leave Saudi champions Al Hilal for Al Ain as their AFC player on a loan deal. He will partner Gyan in attack.

GRAFITE | VfL Wolfsburg to Al Ahli

Age: 32
Position: Striker

The Brazil international, who went to the 2010 Fifa World Cup, opted to end his successful five-year stint in Europe by joining the Red Knights in June on a two-year contract.

It wasn't long ago Grafite struck up a superb partnership with Edin Dzeko at Wolfsburg and guided the club to the 2008-09 Bundesliga title. He also claimed the Bundesliga Player of the Year award, as well as finishing as the league's top scorer honour. Check out his goal in the 5-1 win over Bayern too. He's a bit special.

ASAMOAH GYAN | Sunderland to Al Ain

Age: 25
Position: Striker

Gyan is a player who has moved to the UAE at the peak of his powers after netting 10 goals in the Premier League for Sunderland last season and shining with Ghana at the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The former Rennes and Udinese striker has only agreed a one-year deal with Al Ain, but he has said he is there to win trophies. He seems capable of achieving that aim, while some say he could break some UAE goalscoring records too.

LUIS JIMENEZ | Cesena to Al Ahli

Age: 27
Position: Attacking Midfielder

Despite hardly setting the world on fire in the past few seasons, there's no doubt 27-year-old Chilean Jimenez is a player with prodigious talent.

In fact, he was beginning to realise that talent with Cesena last term, with 31 appearances and nine goals in Serie A, after previous underwhelming stints at Inter, Parma and West Ham. Jimenez has penned a four-year deal with Al Ahli and said he chose the UAE because he needed a fresh challenge.

DIEGO MARADONA | Al Wasl

Age: 50
Position: Coach

It seems like an eternity ago when Al Wasl unveiled Maradona as their new coach in May, and finally he has overseen his first game as their boss in Thursday's Emirates Cup clash.

There's no denying Maradona has a hugh profile worldwide, and he has lifted the UAE Pro-League's profile too with his presence, arguably playing some role in the large number of big-name signings this off-season. The question is, can he coach? He didn't have much luck at the 2010 Fifa World Cup with Argentina but here is his second chance to prove the doubters wrong. We know he would love nothing more than to do that.

LUCAS NEILL | Galatasaray to Al Jazira

Age: 33
Position: Central Defender

The Australia captain is yet another player who competed at last year's Fifa World Cup and has now moved to the UAE Pro-League during the European summer.

The ex-Blackburn, West Ham and Everton defender left Galatasaray at the end of last season and arrives at UAE champions Al Jazira aiming for more silverware, although he has only signed a one-year deal. Ever the professional, he'll add steel and leadership to Al Jazira's line-up.

DAVID TREZEGUET | Hercules to Bani Yas

Age: 33
Position: Striker

The former Les Bleus striker, who famously hit the golden goal in France's 2000 European Championships final victory over Italy, has joined last season's Pro-League runners-up on a one-year deal worth a reported €1.7 million.

Trezeguet may have struggled for regular game-time in his final two seasons at Juventus, but showed he still has the required quality with 12 goals for Hercules in Spain's La Liga last term.

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