Whitecaps sign Egyptian holding midfielder Aly Ghazal

Aly Ghazal

Aly Ghazal

Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced on Thursday that the club has signed central midfielder Aly Ghazal by use of Targeted Allocation Money.

Ghazal, 25, has agreed to a Major League contract through 2018, with a "club option" for 2019. He will occupy an international roster spot and officially join the club's squad pending receipt of his work permit, visa, and medical examinations.

"Aly is a top midfield player who is comfortable on the ball and strong defensively," said Vancouver Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. "He fits into the way we want to play, has a lot of experience at a great age, and brings leadership qualities. We are looking forward to welcoming Aly to our club and city."

"When I left China, I had different options to consider but, the decision was made easier after speaking with manager Robinson," added Ghazal. "I felt his big trust in my game, as well as how it would suit Vancouver's style of play, and this was a very important factor. I also did my own research and what attracted me even more to Vancouver was the great atmosphere around the club and the supporters. I am very much looking forward to this exciting opportunity to play in the Major League for a quality club."

Vancouver Whitecaps FC also confirmed on Thursday that the club has acquired an international roster spot through December 31, 2017 from New York City FC in exchange for $75,000 of General Allocation Money. With these transactions, the 'Caps now have 10 international spots through the 2017 MLS season, all of which are occupied.

Ghazal has spent most of his career with Portuguese Primeira Liga side CD Nacional, playing five seasons from 2012 until 2017. The 188 cm Ghazal, who can also line up at centre back, started 102 of his 107 appearances in the Pimeira Liga. In Portugal, Ghazal became the first Egyptian player to become a captain of a top-level European football team in 2016.

Aly Ghazal in action

Aly Ghazal in action

While with CD Nacional, Ghazal also had 14 combined appearances in the Taça da Liga and Taça de Portugal competitions. He was a member of the CD Nacional side that reached the semi-final of the Taça de Portugal in 2015, bowing to eventual champions Sporting CP that included current Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker Fredy Montero. He also made two starts in the UEFA Europa League, scoring a goal against FC Dinamo Minsk in August 2014.

In January 2017, Ghazal was transferred to Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng FC However, due to the new Chinese Football Association player regulations, which decreased the number of foreign players permitted to play; Ghazal did not make an appearance for the Chinese Super League club. In July, Ghazal and Guizhou HFZ FC mutually agreed to terminate his contract.

Internationally, the native of Aswan, Egypt has made five senior appearances for his national team, including two starts in qualifying matches for the 2015 African Cup of Nation. Ghazal has also represented Egypt at the U-20 level.

In his youth, Ghazal developed with Cairo-based clubs El Sekka El Hadid SC from 2000-6, and Wadi Degla SC from 2006-13.