Diop arrived in the Emirates in January 2012 from Syrian Premier League side Al Karamah in a €300,000 (Dh1.2m) deal.
The 6ft 1in forward has been an unqualified success in the Western Region, netting more than 100 goals for Dhafra in his four campaigns – including an incredible tally of 26 in 32 Arabian Gulf League and Arabian Gulf Cup games in 2013/14.
During the last two seasons he is the joint sixth-highest goalscorer in the top flight with 25 strikes, behind only Al Wahda’s Sebastian Tagliabue (40), Al Jazira’s Ali Mabkhout (39), Al Wasl’s Fabio De Lima (36), Sharjah’s Wanderley (32) and Al Jazira’s former Juventus star Mirko Vucinic (27).
Although Diop renewed his Dhafra contract earlier this month, his ex-colleague Mohammed feels the 27-year-old hotshot is destined for bigger and better things.
“He deserves to be in a better team. I wish him good luck for the future if he leaves,” said the 32-year-old left-back, who himself ended a four-year spell with the Western Knights this summer by signing for relegated Al Shaab.
“I hope for him to be in a good team, he deserves it. Dhafra have a great professional who has been with them for four years. He is every day working. I have seen him do amazing things, he has scored so many goals in four years. I don’t look at him just as a professional footballer, he is one of my brothers. He’s a captain and he leads.”
In the transient environment of domestic UAE football where players and coaches come and go, Dhafra are notorious for retaining players for the duration of their contracts.
Diop will not be on the move this summer after the club confirmed on July 4 he had renewed his contract, but Mohammed feels Diop should be rewarded for his loyalty.
“Diop is the kind of player who respects himself off the field even more than he does on it. He’s a very good guy,” added the former UAE international.
“For the last two years he has received many contracts from other clubs, good clubs. If he stays good luck but if he goes, he deserves it.
“It is now time for him to be playing for a team winning championships, to be rewarded.
“I hope for him a good future, either with Dhafra or without Dhafra. He has been loyal.”
Law studies rather than the stereotypical footballer’s pursuits of Snapchat and sports cars take up his time off the pitch, the imposing Australian centre-back likely to instead be found buried inside a pile of case notes.
The legal profession awaits once the boots are hung up. But at 25-years-old and with a first foreign adventure to look forward to now a two-year deal in Ras Al Khaimah has been signed, his priorities currently firmly lie in raising the floundering Falcons up the Arabian Gulf League table during 2016/17.
“My parents are both academics, so I left school initially without a club and decided to go to university as a Plan B,” he tells Sport360 after Saturday’s gruelling first pre-season training session. “As a footballer, you do have a lot of down time.
“It is a thinking game and players can get caught up with FIFA games. I think it is important to mentality stimulate your mind, especially when you live in a foreign country.
“I enjoy it and I hope it is something I transition to. I am very early on in my studies, I’ve only completed seven or eight units out of 32.
“There are different types of footballers. I like to think I have some type of intellect, but make no mistake, all I think about during the day is football. But at night time, I will read some case notes rather than playing FIFA.”
Anderson arrives in the UAE after a mid-career crisis gripped him at Sydney FC. Steady progress at Gold Coast United and Central Coast Mariners saw him snapped up by the A-League’s glamour side in July 2015, only for mentor Graham Arnold to grant a dispiriting nine runouts in all competitions.
There are plenty of examples available to now believe a fresh start in the UAE will bring reward.
Australians have traditionally excelled here. Sydney captain Alex Brosque – who provided counsel once overtures were made – lifted the 2012/13 top-flight title and 2014 President’s Cup at Al Ain, while a stellar three-year spell for revered playmaker Brett Holman concluded at Emirates in May after previously leading Al Nasr to silverware.
Bani Yas midfielder Mark Milligan also remains a regular for the Socceroos and Anderson thanks his predecessors for the impression they have made.
He says: “Brosque is a fantastic mentor of mine. As is Brett Holman and Mark Milligan.
“I have spoken to all the Australian boys and they’ve got a great reputation out here. One of the reasons why I got this opportunity is the legacy they have left.
“I am here to create my own legacy and uphold that strong Australian name which we are building out here.”
The other headline arrival for Emirates is coach Theo Bucker, with the club taking advantage of a contractual wrangle to snap up the sprightly Middle Eastern veteran who impressed so much by keeping new boys Dibba Al Fujairah up last term.
“I only met him for the first time at training, but I’ve spoken to him a few times on the phone,” Anderson says. “You can soak up his passion for football and love for the game, which is so important when you are working with someone every day.
“I feel like I needed to be on my toes for the whole session, as I thought he was going to outrun me. I have to prove to him and the players I can do a job for the team.”
A nail-biting season under Paulo Comelli saw Emirates cling onto their AGL status on goal difference in 12th place. With promoted clubs Hatta and Ittihad Kalba moving quickly in the summer market and Sharjah landing the marquee buy of prolific Al Ittihad striker Gelmin Rivas, competition at the bottom will be fierce.
Yet this is not a prospect which daunts Anderson, who takes inspiration from Leicester City’s shock run to the 2015/16 Premier League title.
He says: “I have been living in Ras Al Khaimah for about 10 days now, so I have had a bit of time to acclimatise to the heat and meet a few of the staff.
“I think it is a negative thing to put a ceiling on where this club can finish. This club has to be ambitious.
“We are going to bring in a few players, but you can’t put a ceiling on these youngsters. You can see what Leicester did.”
Sharjah have made a stunning swoop for lethal Al Ittihad marksman Gelmin Rivas as they boldly attempt to end their recent woes in the Arabian Gulf League.
A three-year deal for the second top scorer in the 2015/16 Saudi Professional League was proudly announced by chairman Ahmed bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Thani last night. It marks a remarkable retort to the sale of striker Wanderley to Al Nasr.
“Congratulations to the masses for Rivas, and wish him well with the rest of the players,” Al Thani tweeted about the powerful centre forward, who scored 19 goals in 25 top-flight games after a move from Venezuela’s Deportivo Tachira.
The Kings have narrowly avoided relegation during the last two campaigns and this show of ambition exemplifies a keen desire to end this misery. The dramatic change looks unlikely to be the last one at Sharjah Stadium, with Arabic media reporting further raids on Saudi Arabia.
They centre on giants Al Hilal, with the Brazilian pair of centre-back Digao, 28, and striker Ailton, 31, being linked by Al Ittihad newspaper in a dynamic shake-up of the first team. An approach for the same club’s former coach Giorgos Donis is also rumoured.
Last term’s rookie boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari was not present last night as pre-season training got underway.
Ex-Greece midfielder Donis, 46, would provide a sizeable step up in experience after spells at teams such as AEK Athens and PAOK.