Inspired by Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, tipped for success by Brazil legend Kaka and drawing interest from European giants like Paris Saint-Germain, Dubai-based teenager Yahya Ali is quite the prodigy.
Indeed, the 19-year-old attacker has a high ceiling and his lofty ambitions stretch beyond that but after dominating a recent adidas tournament in Moscow, Ali is a future football star.
The former Al Ahli youth product tore up the adidas Tango League final last month – a competition which brings together some of the world’s most skillful 16-25 year olds – after he was crowned Dubai’s MVP following a 3v3 regional qualifying tournament.
Blessed with heavy swagger on the pitch, Ali marries his talent to a level head off it, and you only need to peruse his social media channels for a window of his exponential ability.
Having been given the perfect platform by adidas, the talented teenager is unapologetically ambitious and he has no problem articulating that fact. After all, even Kaka recognised his flair.
“To be honest, playing in the Tango League was the best thing that’s happened in my life up until this point,” Ali tells Sport360.
“I met so many players and to speak with Kaka when I’m a Milan and Brazil fan was so special.
“I spoke to him and he gave me some really good advice to the effect of telling me to work really hard on my game.
“He told me I had the skills and that I played like a Brazilian after watching me in 11v11 at the Luzhniki Stadium which was just amazing to hear.
“I know that everything is dependent on me now if I want to make it as a pro in Europe but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Yahya Ali speaking to football freestyler Sean Garnier
As a Brazil fan, Ali appreciates footballers who hurt opponents with skill. Hallmarked by poise and panache, he has naturally drawn comparisons with Samba stars Neymar and Robinho and there is a possibility he’ll join the former in the future.
PSG and La Liga side Malaga are just two of the big names expressing an interest in signing Ali and having previously spent a month on trial with Man United, he is happy to embrace the challenge should it arise in the New Year.
“The most important thing for me is to get minutes and show my ability, especially at my age now,” he adds.”I’ve grown up playing football in Dubai so I didn’t know any different but then when I went to Manchester United, I saw the level you need to perform at.
“Not just the level in terms of footballing ability, but their mentality.
“I was training with Marcus Rashford with the U15s but after two days he got sent to the U20s.
Yahya trained alongside Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford
“From the moment I saw him in the first-team I said to myself that it is possible.
“If you work hard you can make it because to be honest, he worked very, very hard and you could see that early on.
“It’s so different in Europe from that perspective because I think in the Gulf region, no young player is dreaming big.
“They’re not thinking about becoming a big name in football, they just want to secure their future by playing for a club with a stable contract which will pay them good money.
“For me, I don’t want the money. I’m looking to be a big name, to make the UAE and Dubai football proud. The financial reward may come as a result of me reaching my aim but it’s not the sole focus.”