Birkirkara made a high-profile addition to the club’s technical staff as they announced that John Arne Riise would be acting in a newly-created sporting director role.
In the last few weeks, speculations has been rife that the former Liverpool wingback could enter the Maltese football scene after he was spotted at the National Stadium with the Birkirkara top officials during a Premier League match late last year.
The Premier League club yesterday issued a short statement on Riise’s appointment but gave little details on the responsibilities the former Norway international would have at the club.
“Birkirkara FC is delighted to announce that it has reached an agreement with John Arne Riise to take up the newly-created Sports Director role,” the Stripes said in a statement.l
“John shall work together with the Club Technical Director, Mr Michael Valenzia and Senior Team Manager, Mr Jeffrey Farrugia in a new set-up which shall commence with immediate effect.
“Further details of the clubs plans for the future shall be published in the next few days.”
It remains to be seen, however, whether coach Paul Zammit will retain his place as head coach by the time the Premier League resumes next week when the Stripes take on Birkirkara on Sunday, January 13 at the National Stadium.
In the last few weeks Zammit has fallen out of favour with the club’s top brass over differences in opinion on a number of decisions taken by the team head coach since the start of the season.
The Birkirkara coach was not even consulted by the club’s top hierarchy on the transfer business to be conducted during the January transfer window.
So far, Birkirkara have brought in wing back Clayton Failla from Floriana with Edward Herrera moving in the other direction while they also signed Bosnian midfielder Muamer Svraka.
It is understood that some players from their present squad were also asked to find a club or reach an agreement for the termination of their contract.
Contacted by the Times of Malta yesterday, Michael Valenzia the club’s technical director, said that Zammit would form part of the newly-formed technical set-up.
“Paul Zammit will be included in the club’s newly-formed technical set-up,” Valenzia said.
“He will work alongside John Arne Riise and the other members of the group.”
Asked whether Zammit will retain his job, Valenzia offered no guarantees.
“Until this moment, Paul Zammit is the Birkirkara head coach,” Valenzia said.
“But in football things can change quickly so we have to see how things evolve.”
Meanwhile, Birkirkara yesterday were involved in arguably the biggest transfer deal of the January transfer window so far as midfielder Paul Fenech was sold to Balzan.
The deal marks an unexpected return of the Malta midfielder to Balzan after only six months after he had left the Reds to join the Stripes in the summer.
Birkirkara and Balzan reached an agreement over the transfer on Thursday night and Fenech was yesterday expected to put pen to paper on a two-year contract.
“I’m really happy that I’m back with Balzan,” Fenech told the Times of Malta.
“The last few weeks have been very difficult for me at Birkirkara and when the opportunity came that I could return to Balzan I accepted straightaway.
“Now, I look forward to put my season back on track with Balzan and can’t look forward to don their shirt again when the Premier League restarts this month.”
Fenech is Balzan’s second major signing of the winter transfer window as the Reds have already signed Bosnian defender Aleksandar Kosoric.
The Reds are likely to continue to bolster their squad in the coming weeks as it is understood that they are in talks with Tarxien Rainbows over lateral forward Ricardo Faria.
It is understood that the two clubs are discussing a loan move that would see Faria, who still has an 18-month contract with the Rainbows, join Balzan on loan until the next season.
Balzan are also hopeful of bringing another Malta midfielder in their ranks as they are in advanced talks with Floriana over Steve Pisani.
Sources have told the Times of Malta that an agreement has already been reached between the two clubs and the player and Balzan are just waiting for Floriana to give their go-ahead to complete the transfer.
One player who probably will leave Balzan is Japanese midfielder Yudai Miyamoto, who only made one appearance for the Reds in the 5-1 win over Qrendi in the FA Trophy.
Miyamoto is set to continue the 2018-19 season in the BOV Premier League with Senglea Athletic.
Philip Schranz, who started the season with Senglea, is set to move to Division One football as he is being courted by Pembroke and Sta Luċija.
Qormi are also looking to rehaul their squad as they have released three players from their first team roster.
Czech Republic defender Lubos Adamec, Seo-In Kim, a South Korean midfielder and striker Michael Camilleri have all had their contract rescinded by the Premier League strugglers.
At the moment, Qormi coach Mario Muscat is running the rule over 12 players who are on trial at the club and a final decision on who will be awarded a contract will be made next week.
Tarxien Rainbows are in talks to sign Nigerian midfielder Uchenna Umeh.
The 28-year-old is currently a free agent after his contract with Birkirkara was terminated earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Tarxien could be set to part ways with Stefan Radovanovic.
The Serbian defender is wanted by a Slovakian side and it is likely that the Rainbows will let him pursue his career in Eastern Europe.
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