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.”
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.
“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.”
The World has opened up for Al Jazira.
Unconvincing as they were in Wednesday night’s opener at a mild Hazza bin Zayed Stadium against tournament veterans Auckland City, Brazilian forward Romarinho’s emphatic daisy cutter just before the break put the Pride of Abu Dhabi on the path which could include a cherished meeting with European grandees Real Madrid.
Yet, they are a long way from turning their dream into reality if this patchy display against amateur opposition is repeated when AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds run-out at a renovated Zayed Sports City in Saturday’s quarter-finals.
Ravaged by injuries and withdrawals, the Arabian Gulf League’s holders failed to find any fluency as the Club World Cup experienced a low-key return to the UAE for the first time in seven years.
Auckland’s ninth entry saw them camped in the host’s half after the interval. Sometime UAE No1 Ali Khaseif earning the man-of-the-match honours, in part, for his point-blank, second-half save from one-cap New Zealand forward Ryan De Vries was illustrative.
How coach Henk ten Cate must long for stability in his selection. The absences, for a variety of reasons, of ex-France anchorman Lassana Diarra, utility man Mohammed Fawzi and midfield metronome Mohamed Jamal were particularly glaring.
Coltish defensive midfielders Mohamed Al Attas and Eissa Al Otaibah shrunk in the globe’s glare. Whites hot shot Ali Mabkhout stood statuesque in the chilly Al Ain night.
Judging by the weight of opportunities, the OFC Champions League’s dominant club did not deserve elimination during the play-offs in front of less than 5,000 supporters.
De Vries was a threat throughout for a team which included a driver and dishwasher. His weak shot was grasped by the grateful Khaseif in the 12th minute, young forward Callum McCowatt also spurning a similar opportunity before Romarinho’s moment arrived.
The summer addition from Qatar’s El Jaish raced onto a loose ball 20 yards from goal, a smart step over from referee Malang Diedhiou granting him space to lash in a memorable fifth strike in 14 appearances.
This effort from the 2012 CWC winner with Corinthians did not provide a necessary spark. Their paltry AGL title defence transferred to this gala competition.
Auckland’s control was continuous. A threatening volley from Mexican Fabrizio Tavano skimmed over, prior to De Vries’ final miss.
Jazira were left to celebrate at the end. But a berth in the sold-out semi-finals and finals appears a distant hope, on this evidence.
— #ClubWC 🇦🇪🏆 (@FIFAcom) December 6, 2017
The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious award in world football.
In recent years it has been dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – who have shared the top individual prize between them since 2008.
As both players continue to tussle for the top accolade, Messi leads the way with five wins – more than any other player in history – although it could soon be matched by Ronaldo.
Widely considered as one of the greatest players of all time, the Argentine has brought football to a new level with his quick feet and clinical finishing ability.
The Barcelona superstar first won the Ballon d’Or in 2009, before it merged with FIFA’s World Player of the Year award, and clinched it every year until 2012 when his grip on the award was broken by Ronaldo.
However, Messi’s crowning moment came in 2015, when he capped off a famous tremble winning season with Barcelona to collect a fifth award – scoring 52 goals for club and country across the calendar year.
Now 30, the maestro from Rosario has netted 524 goals in 605 matches since breaking on to the scene for the Catalan giants back in October 2004.
His mantelpiece speaks for itself carrying eight La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, four Copa Del Reys, three Club World Cups and seven Spanish Super Cups.
Octo Finissimo Automatic A Third World Record for Bulgari
Bulgari is once again the spotlight, proudly presenting its third successive world record.
The Octo Finissimo Automatic is the slimmest ultra-thin self-winding watch on the market to date.
After introducing its Tourbillon in 2014 and the Minute Repeater in 2016, the Maison unveils its new creation featuring a total thickness of just 5.15mm, while its self-winding movement is just 2.23mm thick for a 40mm diameter.
The iconic Octo is once again pushing the boundaries of watchmaking feasibility.