IN PICS: 20 striking legends Ahmed Khalil has surpassed

Sport360 staff 12/10/2016
Ahmed Khalil - Goal Machine

United Arab Emirates striker Ahmed Khalil is his nation’s second highest scorer of all time.

With 40 goals in 77 appearances, he isn’t far from Adnan Al Talyani’s record of 52 goals in 161 appearances.

Given that he’s only 25 years old and averages goal every two games, he seems destined to cross that landmark.

Until then, he can be pleased with the fact that he has dwarfed the international tallies of some of the greatest strikers to play the game.

Here, we countdown the top 20 strikers he has surpassed so far.

What do you think of Khalil’s remarkable scoring record?

Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook

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The next Gerard Pique: Five candidates

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Who will be the next Pique?

Gerard Pique has announced that he will end his international career with Spain after the 2018 World Cup amid renewed controversy over his political views.

The Barcelona star, who supports independence for Catalonia, came under fire again after Sunday’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying win against Albania.

Pique was criticised in the Spanish media for allegedly removing the national colours from his playing strip. The accusations were the last straw for the defender who has played 85 times for his country.

“The World Cup in Russia is going to be my last tournament with the national team,” he said, adding “the criticisms today have added to what has happened over the last few years.”

It comes as a huge blow to the national side as Pique has been a world-class performer on the pitch for a nation that isn’t exactly brimming with talented central defenders.

However, there are a few hopefuls who could be capable of stepping into his shoes in two years time. Here’s a look at five candidates.

INIGO MARTINEZ

AGE: 25

CLUB: Real Sociedad

Inigo Martinez is the overwhelming favourite to succeed Pique in Spains back-line. The Real Sociedad defender has plenty of experience in La Liga and is renowned for his reading of the game, aerial prowess and distribution.

MARC BARTRA

AGE: 25

CLUB: Borussia Dortmund

The former Barcelona center-back has helped his cause by moving to the Bundesliga where he’s being afforded regular playing time. The La Masia product is unsurprisingly comfortable with the ball at his feet and can pick a pass while he’s known to be strong in a tackle as well.

NACHO FERNANDEZ

AGE: 26

CLUB: Real Madrid

The versatile defender can operate anywhere across the back-line. He’s not always the most sound from a positional sense and can suffer from the odd lapse in concentration but as far as technique and ability go, Nacho shows no evident weakness.

JORGE MERE

AGE: 19

CLUB: Sporting Gijon

The teenager broke into Sporting’s first eleven towards the end of last seasona and hasn’t looked out of place at all. He has a good turn of pace and is strong in possession. He can make a few errors but his game should get ironed out with experience. He could be the real deal in a couple of years.

JESUS VALLEJO

AGE: 19

CLUB: Eintracht Frankfurt (on loan from Real Madrid)

Vallejo has seen his progress hindered as he’s struggled for consistency while suffering from injuries as well. Real Zaragoza, the club where he began his career, thinks very highly of him. His ability attracted the interest of Real Madrid who loaned him back to Zaragoza for a season and now to the Bundesliga for the current campaign. Another one to keep tabs on for the next two years.

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Decorated Pique will eternally divide opinion

Andy West 11/10/2016
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Gerard Pique.

If there is anything positive to emerge from Gerard Pique’s announcement that he will quit international football after the 2018 World Cup Finals, it is that Spain at least have plenty of time to plan for his departure.

And Pique’s boots will be very tough to fill, because he has without doubt been one of the best central defenders in the world for several years.

For some reason, however, he rarely gets the kind of recognition his consistent excellence deserves, neither for his club nor his country.

On the domestic scene, this is no doubt because, at Barcelona, he is part of one of the greatest attacking teams in the history of the game – once Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez, Neymar and co have taken their share of the limelight, there’s not much left for anyone else.

And at international level, Pique was initially a peripheral figure, dominated by senior partner Carles Puyol, and more recently he has been talked about more for off-the-pitch controversy than what he has actually done on the field of play, which is generally faultless.

The lack of plaudits heading Pique’s way should not be allowed to obscure the fact that he is an exceptionally good central defender, who has played arguably the best football of his career since being given a kick up the backside by Luis Enrique a couple of years ago.

And Spain will find him extraordinarily difficult to replace a couple of summers from now, especially considering their dearth of top-quality replacements.

The lack of central defensive strength in depth available to recently appointed manager Julen Lopetegui is evidenced by the fact the replacement for Sergio Ramos against Albania this week was Inigo Martinez of Real Sociedad, who has never really fulfilled his youthful promise.

Other candidates such as Marc Bartra and Nacho Fernandez have also consistently failed to convince, and Lopetegui can only desperately hope that a young player – perhaps Sporting Gijon’s highly-rated teenager Jorge Mere – will make significant advances in the next couple of years to fill the void.

Of course, there is still a fair amount of time before Pique’s newly-announced retirement becomes effective, and the next 18 months or so will be pivotal in determining how he is remembered by Spain fans.

Really, it’s extremely odd that a player who has (already) earned 84 caps and played an integral part in winning both the World Cup and the European Championships can have his legacy even questioned.

But the reality is that Pique has always been an extremely divisive character among Spanish fans, and it’s currently difficult to envisage how the country’s many millions of Real Madrid fans will be able to see past their club biases and regard the Barcelona star with any affection whatsoever.

He deserves better, but the partisan nature of club rivalries – especially the most intense club rivalry of them all – makes it unavoidable that Pique, who has always been the first to celebrate Barcelona’s victories and mock Real Madrid’s failures, has infuriated a significant number of people in his homeland.

When you further consider his belief that Spain shouldn’t even be his homeland, and that he should instead be a proud member of a newly-formed state of Catalonia, and it’s easy to understand the ambivalence.

Perhaps only one thing will convince Pique’s haters to wish him a fond farewell: winning the World Cup in 2018. Anything less, and he will have more enemies than friends in Spain.

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