Yahya Al Ghassani has certainly taken advantage of new eligibility rules inserted this season to shine on the Arabian Gulf League stage in 2018/19.
The tricky Al Wahda forward has been a standout member of the group allowed to feature in the AGL this term after November 2017’s decision by UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan that children of Emirati women born to foreign fathers will be able to compete in official UAE competitions for the first time.
The 20-year-old, of Tanzanian descent, was rewarded with a bumper contract extension until 2023 at the Clarets last September, less than two months since his recruitment courtesy of the game-changing new eligibility rules.
The electric forward came off the substitutes’ bench to score on his top-flight debut in the opening day 6-2 thrashing of promoted Ittihad Kalba. Such exciting ability saw the Clarets announce fresh terms.
Arabian Gulf League title challengers Al Jazira are set to announce rising UAE star Khalfan Mubarak has inked a new contract, disappointing suitors such as champions Al Ain who hoped to swoop him up on a free this summer.
Mubarak, 23, moved within the last six months of his current deal in January. This gave hope to teams across the top flight that they could snaffle, for a bargain arrangement, one of the Whites’ best performers at Asian Cup 2019 and the top flight’s current leading assist maker with 10 recorded in 13 run-outs.
Pictures, however, emerged on social media late on Tuesday that the former Al Ahli youth player had put pen to paper on fresh terms. Sources at the Pride of Abu Dhabi expected a multi-year arrangement to be officially revealed in the coming days.
The diminutive playmaker started all three Group A matches for the hosts at the ongoing continental tournament. He was brought off early on during the disappointing 1-1 draw with Bahrain on January 5’s opening night, but produced a stunning solo goal to open the scoring last week in the 2-0 victory against India.
A facial injury picked up in that clash threatened his participation on Monday against Thailand. Mubarak, however, performed well in 84 minutes on the park prior to veteran Ismail Matar’s introduction to the fray in a 1-1 draw which helped secure top spot.
Mubarak was tipped as a successor to Omar Abdulrahman – the compatriot whose serious knee injury in October granted him access to the UAE’s XI for the Asian Cup – by then Ahli boss Quique Sanchez Flores in March 2013. But after making just one appearance for that club as an 18-year-old, he defected to the capital with Jazira.
At Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, he’s won the 2015/16 President’s Cup and 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League.
In total, he’s scored 15 times in 79 top-flight games.
Former France midfielder Yohan Cabaye’s time in the Arabian Gulf League was officially brought to a surprisingly premature end on Sunday when Al Nasr announced he was part of a trio of foreign starts who’d been let go.
Cabaye, 32, signed a two-year deal in July once he’d decided to pursue a “different challenge” away from the Premier League’s Crystal Palace.
But the Blue Wave’s woeful first half of the campaign – they sit ninth, just six points off the relegation zone at the winter break – and the addition of new Spanish coach Benat San Jose has seen them move in a different direction. The ex-Lille, Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain star scored twice in 19 appearances across all competitions.
Loans for Corinthians winger Junior Dutra and Al Fayha forward Ronnie Fernandez have been secured in the last seven days, with Lebanon centre-back Joan Oumari set to be reinstated in the four-player foreign quota now his temporary contract at Japan’s Sagan Tosu has expired. Cabaye is joined through the exit door by fellow summer additions Samuel Rosa and Marquinhos Gabriel.
“Al Nasr dispense with the services of the Cabaye, Rosa and Marquinhos and thanks the three players for the period when they wore the club’s shirt,” they tweeted.
The only non-Emirati to be retained is former Spain and Real Madrid striker Alvaro Negredo. This follows an impressive nine goals in 11 top-flight matches since his procurement in September from Turkey’s Besiktas.
For Cabaye, he started each of Nasr’s four AGL losses at the start of 2018/19. But he’d began to exert his quality, prior to the hiccup of his red card in the 1-0 President’s Cup, round of 16 triumph against Bani Yas on December.
The Blue Wave are now pinning their hopes on their latest additions.
Versatile Chilean attacker Fernandez played under San Jose at Bolivia’s Club Bolivar in 2016/17. Since he moved to Saudi Arabia’s Al Fayha, he’s netted 16 times in 39 top-flight outings.
Dutra spent 2014-16 with Qatar’s Al Arabi. His previous loan away from Corinthians saw him go goalless in 18 run-outs for Fluminense.