Omar Abdulrahman's performances at the Asian Cup have gained him even more admirers.
His current deal with Al Ain expires in the summer, with no new deal on the horizon. However, with many of Europe's clubs stepping up to show an interest in the star midfielder, money will be a serious impediment to any deal.
– #Quiz360: WIN Dhs250 Legends Sports Bar voucher
Will Omar Abdulrahman leave the Arabian Gulf League?
James Piercy, deputy editor, says YES
The time has surely come for Omar Abdulrahman to move on to pastures new.
It’s well-known among Europe’s leading clubs that he has been the most talented player in the Gulf for some time now. However, domestic football in this region can often fly under the radar with misplaced stereotypes of a poor standard, both technically and tactically, often ruling any bright talent irrelevant.
But the Asian Cup has meant any secret surrounding his ability is finally out and a performance against Australia on Tuesday will surely see him named Player of the Tournament.
How he copes with the physical Australians could be a potential make or break 90 minutes for his future but his displays Down Under have already allayed many fears over his suitability for more prestigious surroundings than the Arabian Gulf League.
He is, without question, a special player. His first touch as easy on the eye as Luka Modric’s or Koke’s (two of the best technical midfielders in the world) and his ability to spot passes no one else can, a unique gift.
So far the issues over his continual presence have been as much with Al Ain’s unease about allowing the UAE’s prized asset to leave the country and Omar’s own reluctance, which is perfectly understandable.
But displays such as his, which have caught the wider imagination of the football world, cannot go unnoticed. When you factor in the marketability of owning a player from the Emirates, as many of Europe’s clubs look to the region for funding, suitors must be queuing up and sooner or later there will be too many for both Al Ain and Omar to resist.
He may not possess the requisite physicality for the Premier League but there are fine clubs, outside the established elite, in Spain, Germany and Italy where he would fit in perfectly.
At 23, Omar is a perfect age to move on and, from a symbolic standpoint, perhaps he and Al Ain will consider they almost owe it to Middle Eastern football to show off the region’s best to the world.
Matt Monaghan, reporter, says NO
Should Omar Abdulrahman leave for a European adventure? Absolutely. But will he? The answer, sadly, is no.
A number of factors are set to keep the Asian Cup’s star performer at Al Ain. The player is happy in a familiar environment,where he knows he is loved.
Abdulrahman’s background is well documented, born in Riyadh to a family of Yemeni origin. When Saudi Arabia would only offer a passport to this prodigious footballer rather than his entire family, his path was set to the UAE.
Abdulrahman has done a lot for his adopted country, but so has the Emirates for him.
This care extends to his finances, with Al Ain making sure their star performer is well renumerated. As with most Emiratis, he does not have an official agent as his club provides professional guidance.
Several well-placed sources have estimated when all sponsorship deals, bonuses, wages and provisions are taken into account that Abdulrahman could be taking home as much as €10 million (Dh41.2m) per annum.
For example, it is believed he was gifted a Bugatti Veyron supercar worth more than £1m (Dh5.5m) after playing a guiding role in the Whites’ 2013 Gulf Cup triumph.
Money is a serious impediment to any deal. Abdulrahman is unlikely to be handed such an amount by any European club looking to take a chance when such huge figures are involved.
The risk factor extends to his health. The last two seasons have been seriously interrupted by injury.
This term he has played only twice in the Arabian Gulf League. Such fallibility, when combined with the declining resources of proven European finishing schools such as Benfica and PSV Eindhoven, limit his options.
Abdulrahman’s current deal expires in the summer, with no new deal on the horizon. But speak to his club and international team-mates and they talk of a man happy in his current surroundings. He is going nowhere fast.
Al Ahli are close to pulling off the coup of the winter transfer window after agreeing a €10 million fee (Dh41.2m) for Brazil attacking midfielder Everton Ribeiro.
An outline agreement was first reached with Cruzeiro on Saturday night for the 25-year-old, with wages of €5m (Dh20.6m) on an undetermined length of contract.
Official confirmation is yet to come from the Red Knights, who insist “negotiations are ongoing”. The deal is a complicated one, reports in the Brazilian media stating that Ahli’s bid is for 60 per cent of the player’s economic rights.
Italian giants AC Milan have been linked with Ribeiro, with further competition provided by clubs from China and Ukraine. But a move now seems imminent to the UAE, with the player set to sit out Monday’s friendly against Shakhtar Donetsk in Brasilia.
If successfully concluded, it would be the second eye-catching arrival for Cosmin Olaroiu’s men this month after bringing in Morocco winger Oussama Assaidi from Premier League outfit Liverpool. Ahli hope the pair will add much-needed creativity and youth to a team that has gone from treble winners to sixth place in the Arabian Gulf League table.
Ribeiro has made three appearances for the Selecao since being handed his international debut off the substitute’s bench in September’s 1-0 friendly win against Colombia.
This promotion from head coach Dunga followed on the back of successive Brasileirao title wins for Cruzeiro, in which he was also named the Premio Craque do Brasileirao (Brazilian Player of the Year) for 2013 and 2014.
His increasing stature was reflected last month when he joined Brazil legend Ronaldo’s 9ine sports marketing agency, which counts Barcelona’s Neymar as a client.
The likely arrival of Ribeiro is sure to spell the end of countryman Grafite’s exemplary period at Ahli after three-and-a-half trophy-laden years at Rashid Stadium. The 35-year-old club captain will make way to create space in the four-player foreign quota, which should include Luis Jimenez, Carlos Munoz and Assaidi.
Meanwhile, Al Nasr have entered the final stages of negotiations to secure a loan deal until the end of the season with former Spain winger Pablo Hernandez.
Hernandez, 29, arrived in Dubai during the weekend to undergo a medical.
Personal terms have been agreed with the ex-Valencia wide man, though concord with Qataris Al Arabi is yet to be reached.
The four-times capped player has scored six goals in 13 Qatar Stars League appearances since joining from Swansea in the summer.
His arrival would spell the end for one of the Blue Waves’ foreign players, who currently include captain Brett Holman, striker Ibrahima Toure, Brazilian midfielder Renan Garcia and Macedonia winger Ivan Trickovski. A decision is believed to be close about who will make way.
Oussama Assaidi is looking to harness the frustration of never getting a “fair chance” in the Premier League and use it to excel with new side Al Ahli.
Assaidi, 26, was presented to the media at Rashid Stadium yesterday after his Dh26 million (£4.75m) move from Liverpool was rubberstamped with the opening of the winter transfer window. He is expected to add much-needed dynamism and flair to the Red Knights, helping to ignite last season’s treble winners’ faltering campaign.
The Morocco winger – who revealed a potential move to Ahli was blocked last summer – arrives after the second of two season-long loan spells at Stoke City was cut short after his parent club was offered the chance to cash in.
Assaidi made only four top-flight appearances at Liverpool after joining from Dutch outfit Heerenveen in 2012. He excelled during his first temporary move to Stoke but started only three games in all competitions this term.
Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, Assaidi spelled out his desire to repay the faith shown in him by his long-term suitors and revealed kind words from ex-Ahli midfielder Karim El Ahmadi and coach Henk ten Cate swayed him to make the switch to Dubai.
He said: “Al Ahli have big confidence in me, that’s what I need and what I didn’t get in England. If you look at Liverpool, I never got a fair chance and at Stoke City I was one of the better players I think.
“This year, I didn’t play so much. I missed the confidence of the clubs. Everyone I talked to spoke very well about Al Ahli. Henk ten Cate spoke very well about this club and also my best mate Karim El Ahmadi gave me a nice opinion and told me to go enjoy it.”
He added: “I wanted to come here before to Ahli but Stoke wouldn’t let me go. But I did everything so that they would let me go and now I’m here and and I’m very happy.”
Assaidi makes his entry at a difficult moment for Ahli.
Their laboured AGL defence sees them marooned in sixth, while coach Cosmin Olaroiu is set to return after an unsuccessful loan stint at Saudi Arabia ended with group-stage elimination at the Asian Cup.
Red Knights CEO Ahmed Khalifa smiled playfully when asked about the addition of further foreign and domestic players before the market closes on February 12.
He said: “Maybe something will happen. We don’t know about the future but we are always trying to improve the team by signing new players. That’s how we work. Wait and see until February 12, maybe something will happen before the end of the transfer window.”
Added intrigue was provided by the sight of Brazilian winger Ciel performing kick ups outside the media room on his way to training, just four months after suffering a double ankle fracture.
Khalifa insisted Olaroiu had been fully behind the move for Assaidi, while declaring Ciel would not be in contention to take up one of the quartet of foreign players slots just yet.
“Of course, all steps were taken with Cosmin’s knowledge,” he said. “He knew everything. Ciel is out of the list [of foreign players], he’s only recently fit and back training. The first match [of the second half of the AGL season] is less than two weeks away. I don’t think he will be fit, he’s a club player but he’s out of the list.”