East Bengal have signed Antonio Rogriguez Dovale, commonly known as Toni, for the rest of the season. The Spaniard replaces Syrian playmaker Mahmoud Al-Amna, who was released by the club a couple of days ago.
Toni, who plied his trade for Bengaluru FC last season in the Indian Super League, left the club at the end of the season and joined Cypriot top flight club Nea Salamina, where many Spanish footballers play.
But that turned out to be a disaster for the talented winger who didn't play a single match for his new club. Nea Salamina currently stand at the sixth position of the league table with 19 points from 12 matches.
Dovale has fallen out of favour with coach Savvas Poursaitidis and when a call came from East Bengal, he couldn’t ignore it. He will in all likelihood arrive at Kolkata by December 14.
During his time with Bengaluru FC, he played 13 matches in the ISL and helped the team reach the final of the tournament. But his real talent was on display in the AFC Cup, where he was deployed in a more attacking role by the then Bangaluru coach Albert Roca, scoring three times in four games.
Dovale started his youth career at local club Ural CF and spent four years at Barcelona's academy. He then joined Celta B and was promoted to the senior team subsequently, where he played under Luis Enrique, the current Spanish national team coach.
However, he was deployed on the left side, which he failed to enjoy much success. As a result, he was continuously omitted from the first team squad, which forced him to quit the club. After spending two years at Sporting Kansas City and Lugo, Dovale came back to La Liga and joined Leganes. He was signed by Rayo Vallecano after two seasons at Leganes and last season, joined Bengaluru FC.
East Bengal, meanwhile, have lacked creativity in the midfield in the absence of a proper playmaker. Al-Amna played well in the Calcutta Football League but he injured himself in pre-season training camp in Malaysia. As he failed to recover in time, the club decided to release the Syrian with the official confirmation coming on Monday.
In other news involving the club, Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda picked up an injury in the match against Gokulam Kerala FC. The Mexican fractured his rib, which will take at least eight weeks to heal. That means he will not be available until February.
The club are pondering whether to release him but the coach has opposed any such move.Published 10 Dec 2018, 20:15 IST