Al Jazira striker Ali Mabkhout was named Emirati Player of the Year, while Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain were heavily rewarded as the AGL’s annual prizes were handed out in Abu Dhabi Sunday night.
Striker Mabkhout netted 16 league goals as Jazira finished runners- up to the Boss, while he also enjoyed a magnificent spell with the UAE national team, winning the Golden Boot at both the Gulf Cup of Nations and the Asian Cup in January.
Yet while delighted with the recognition, the 24-year-old insists he won’t be happy until he is lifting trophies alongside his Jazira teammates.
“I’m so happy that I took this award, it’s a great honour, but the most important thing in football is to win awards with the team, not by yourself,” said Mabkhout, who like all the winners was handed his trophy by HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “To win without the team is nothing. These are personal things, they are nothing without the team.
“I’m happy with the individual award but I would prefer a collective award with the team and to be happy with the team.”
Champions Al Ain were represented at the glittering ceremony, held at the St Regis Hotel on the Corniche in the capital, by coach Zlatko Dalic, who won the best coach award. The Crotation led the Boss to the title in his first full season, the championship returning to the Garden City for a third time in four seasons.
There were also three Al Ain players in the team of the season, including UAE international Mohanad Salem, 30, who was a rock at the back for Dalic’s men all season as they reclaimed the title from Al Ahli and former manager Cosmin Olaroiu.
Salem’s team-mates Khalid Essa and Miroslav Stoch were also named in the team of the year.
And it was double delight for goalkeeper Essa, 25, who also won the best goalkeeper accolade.
Dalic said the key ingredient to his side’s success had been the fact his team are like a family and he praised the players who stepped up in the absence of star men Omar Abdulrahman and the now departed Asamoah Gyan, both of whom spent large portions of the season on the sidelines.
“I am very happy but this is not only my award. Everybody from my club are part of this trophy,” said Dalic. “The most important thing for me is that my team stayed together. We were like a family and this is why we took the league title.
“Everyone gave everything for the team, for the results. We played many games without our main players, like Omar and Gyan, but the players gave everything.”
The 48-year-old hopes he will be back to pick up the same award at next season’s ceremony.
“I hope it’s not my last manager of the year award,” he said. “I will again try to do a good job next season and be a champion with my team. That is my target and the target of my team, to again take this trophy. It will be important for us to be better than last season. I hope we will be.”
As well as celebrating Mabkhout’s award, there was also recognition for his prolific strike partner Mirko Vucinic, who top-scored in the AGL with 25 goals following his move from Juventus.
Vucinic claimed the AGL’s Best Foreign Player and Top Scorer awards. They were joined by UAE international midfielder Khamis Esmail in the Team of the Year.
Montenegrin forward Vucinic, 31, described his personal double as “beautiful” but, like Mabkhout, said he hopes to claim honours with the Pride of Abu Dhabi next season.
“It’s beautiful, very beautiful. I’m happy. I hope it is the first of many trophies but I want to win them with the team and I hope to return here next year as a champion,” said the Montenegrin. “We hope to take the title next year.”