Twice voted the best player in his homeland’s top flight for Cruzeiro before joining Cosmin Olaroiu’s side in February, the Brazil international has been involved in every one of Al Ahli’s AFC Champions League fixtures as Riberio helped the side advance past the group stage for the first time with three goals in six games.
The 26-year-old also played an important part in the defeats of domestic rivals Al Ain in the last 16 and Iran’s Naft Tehran in the quarter-finals, before scoring a vital goal against last year’s finalists Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia to secure a first place in the AFC Champions League final for a UAE side since 2005.
“When I started discussions about a possible transfer to Al Ahli and sat down for talks with the club’s President, even back then, getting to this point, the AFC Champions League final, was the biggest target,” said Ribeiro, who participated in the goalless final first leg at Rashid Stadium earlier this month.
“With all the work the team has committed throughout this season and all the games we have played, we are now one step away from our dream, the AFC Champions League trophy.
“We have been working hard to get ourselves into the best shape to claim this honour and hopefully we can now achieve it and claim the title.”
Standing in the way of Ribeiro and his team-mates, are a side in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Guangzhou Evergrande that have gone on an intimidating 27-game unbeaten streak and lifted the Chinese Super League for a fifth straight season at the end of last month.
The 2013 winners also possess the tournament’s leading scorer, Ribeiro’s former Cruzeiro team-mate Ricardo Goulart, although the 24-year-old may not face his ex-colleague with the forwards recovery from an ankle injury suffered in the first leg in Dubai still in doubt.
“Guangzhou is a very strong team, during the season have been showing a lot of good quality. They have a lot of good Chinese players as well as foreign players that are very good and well-known,” added Ribeiro, who played for Brazil at the 2015 Copa America.
“But we’re also a strong and compact team that play a good football, and we know the quality we have also.
“Our biggest hope is that we can do our best, bring the cup home and reach the dream that has been discussed so long ago.”