There has been plenty of activity in the Azerbaijani transfer market this summer with MKT Araz Imishli leading the way as they gear up for their debut in the UEFA Cup.
Champions FK Khazar Lenkoran have bolstered their squad by signing experienced Ivorian striker Yacouba Bamba from FK Karvan Evlakh. The 32-year-old became the league's top goalscorer in the first of his two years at Karvan and scored ten goal last campaign. "We are all aware of Bamba's quality," said Khazar chief scout Zaur Azizov. "Our coach Agaselim Mirjavadov has long been an admirer of his and we know Bamba's goals will bring us many important victories. We are hoping that his experience helps us in the [UEFA] Champions League." Changes are also afoot at the back, where 26-year-old Kosovan Benis Krasnici is expected to join Khazar, who will play in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, following the departure of influential defender Valeri Abramidze.
Araz have also been active in the transfer market before their UEFA Cup adventure begins, with the first qualifying round draw on Friday. Strikers Farrukh Ismaylov and Elshan Mammadov have been drafted in from PFC Neftchi and FC Inter Baku respectively to add firepower - the latter one of five players to have swapped Inter colours for those of Araz. They include Azerbaijan defender Zaur Gashimov, his international team-mate and midfielder Elmar Bakhshiev as well as Ruslan Poladov and Aykhan Abbasov.
Fellow UEFA Cup hopefuls Neftchi were pipped to the title on the very last day of the season and have lured three key players away from FK Baku in order to retrieve the league crown. Former Baku captain Ramin Guliyev, 26, Rail Melikov, 22, and 24-year-old Ramazan Abbasov have left for the Black and Whites. Neftchi have also recruited 21-year-old FK Karabakh midfielder Namig Yusifov and midfielder Nazar Bayramov from Karvan but the club are determined not to stop there. "Our transfer plans do not end with those five signings," said the club's press officer Sabukhi Safiyarli. "We intend to approach the foreign market with caution and concentrate on players capable of improving our club."
Despite adding a number of foreign faces to their squad in the closed season Baku were held to a 1-1 draw at FC Dacia Chisinau in the first leg of the UEFA Intertoto Cup first round and only then did their goal arrive courtesy of a late own goal by Dacia's Maxsim Andronić. Serbian defender Bojan Ilić of Karabakh, PFK Turan Tovuz's Bulgarian playmaker Asen Nikolov, Nigerian striker Akhmed Tijani of FK Shahdag and Paraguayan forward Israel Rodríguez of Ecuadorian outfit Club Sport Emelec will all be hoping their new side improves in the away leg in Moldova. Baku have also signed four local players in a bid to create healthy competition for first-team places.
On the coaching front, there has been one significant recent development with Junis Huseynov resigning from his post as Karvan coach in June. Huseynov is succeeded by his former No2 Tebriz Hasanov, 40, who will in turn be assisted at the helm by Makhir Aliyev and former Azerbaijani international Vidadi Rzaev.
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