The long-term future of UAE superstar Omar Abdulrahman is yet to be determined after his agent denied undertaking talks to stay at Saudi Professional League giants Al Hilal or return to the Arabian Gulf League’s Al Ain.
Abdulrahman, 27, is set for a vital pre-season after October’s serious knee injury curtailed the celebrated playmaker’s debut campaign at boyhood club Hilal and precluded him from the 2019 Asian Cup on home soil.
A lucrative and controversial one-year contract – worth a reputed Dh60 million, with signing-on fee – was signed with the Riyadh behemoth last August, ending a 12-year association with the Boss. But clarity about what comes next could not be provided by representative Nader Marzouki.
“We have not received any negotiations to renew Amoory’s contract. He has a desire to continue with Al Hilal for another season, especially since injury prevented him from completing the season,” he told Saudi sports daily Al Riyadiya.
“Amoory will join the list of Hilal at the start of the preparation phase, as the contract continues until mid-August. We did not receive any offer from Al Ain for his return.”
With these quotes in mind, Sport360 reviews the options for the 2016 AFC Player of the Year:
‘Unfinished business’ defines Amoory’s feelings about Hilal.
A lifelong wish for the Riyadh-born member of the Yemeni diaspora to don their famous dark blue kit was made real with last year’s sensational free transfer. An assist and goal followed in five solid SPL performances, before the questionable turf at Al Shabab’s Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium wrought havoc on his cruciate ligament.
The game-changing injection of cash that brought Abdulrahman, ex-France centre forward Bafetimbi Gomis and several other stellar names to the Kingdom for 2018/19 is expected to be tempered this time. There is also a minor reduction in the foreign players quota, from eight to seven.
Amoory’s status as a beloved Arab icon – he has 1.4 million followers, alone, on Instagram – and lauded past exploits should, however, be enough for Hilal to seek a renewal if his fitness can be proved during pre-season. The Crescent’s unquestionable status as the region’s premier club retains significant allure, judging by his agent’s recent remarks.
But will terms be as generous, plus is he guaranteed a regular spot in the XI or the Asian-qualified berth in the four-player non-Saudi list for the 2019 AFC Champions League’s knockouts?
Italy playmaker Sebastian Giovinco blocks his route domestically and Australia centre-back Milos Degenek appears a shoe-in continentally.
Amoory’s heart is painted blue. His judgement, however, should not be clouded by emotion.
The Boss have been bold reconstructing a squad that slumped so alarmingly in Abdulrahman’s absence.
A tumultuous spell has seen the disintegrating side that claimed the 2017/18 AGL and President’s Cup double comprehensively dismantled. There are three new foreigners already in situ for next term and rumours abound that the UAE’s most-decorated club seek a reunion with the golden boy who recorded 11 major trophies, 62 goals, 114 assists and 229 appearances with them.
This potential comeback to the Garden City, however, is a complicated one. The winter’s explosive interview with Dubai Sports about his rancorous exit caused uproar, while serious question marks remain about whether this version of the Boss – who got one point in the 2019 ACL group stage and finished a distant fourth in the AGL – can sate his ambitions.
New Al Ain boss Ivan Leko is also a proponent of the 3-5-2 formation. This system vexed Amoory during Jorge Fossati’s doomed 49-day tenure at the start of 2013/14.
Many European suitors have knocked on Amoory’s door since a successful trial at Manchester City was undone by work-permit complications. All have been rebuffed.
La Liga’s Leganes and Ligue 1’s Lyon were linked 12 months ago. Nice were dismissed before then, while Valencia and Primeira Liga giants Benfica also failed in the past.
Now, the picture has flipped. Amoory is returning from the fourth major knee problem of his career, earns wages north of Dh20m per annum and will be 28-years old in September.
He once seemed destined to become the UAE’s first permanent export to the big leagues. This avenue now appears closed off, forever.
ANOTHER AGL CLUB
Amoory’s stock as a footballer is low, but his reputation remains high.
If deals cannot be struck with Hilal or Al Ain, could a local alternative emerge?
With much of Amoory’s downtime spent in Dubai, an obvious option is presented by Al Nasr. The resplendent redevelopment of Al Maktoum Stadium, desperately, requires footballers of a requisite standard.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club are a coming force under Rodolfo Arruabarrena, if the Argentine remains. Could surprise champions Sharjah spring another shock?
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The UAE Pro League made the draw for the 2019-20 Arabian Gulf League and Arabian Gulf Cup at Al Nasr Club’s Al Maktoum Stadium on Thursday night.
The draw was conducted thanks to the help of UAE Special Olympics team members Hamda Al Hosani, Aisha Saif, Zayed Al Ameri and Saleh Al Marri, who played a superb role in the Special Olympics earlier this year.
The draw for the Arabian Gulf Cup was conducted first, executed by His Excellency Ahmed Al Bahri Al Hammadi and Jamal Al Marri, member of the PLC Executive Office.
Arabian Gulf Cup champions Shabab Al Ahli were placed on top of Group A, while Arabian Gulf League champions Sharjah were placed in pot 1 of Group B.
The first group included Al Ain, Al Jazira, Al Nasr, Al Dhafra, Ittihad Kalba, Khorfakkan alongside Shabab Al Ahli, while the second group brought Bani Yas, Al Wahda, Ajman, Al Wasl, Hatta and Fujairah in addition to Sharjah.
Matchweek 1 of the Arabian Gulf Cup sees strong fixtures, with Shabab Al Ahli starting their title defence against Al Ain, while Al Jazira face newly promoted Khorfakkan.
Al Nasr face Ittihad Kalba, while Arabian Gulf League winners Sharjah play Bani Yas, Fujairah are away to Al Wahda and Ajman take on Hatta.
Next up was the Arabian Gulf League draw, conducted by His Excellency Yousef Mohammed Rasool Khoory, Vice President of the PLC Executive Office, His Excellency Abdulhameed Al Mestaka, member of the Executive Council, Chairman of the Technical Committee.
The draw produced seven big clashes in the opening matchday, spearheaded by a Bur Dubai Derby between Al Nasr and Al Wasl.
Sharjah start their title defence against Khorfakkan, while Shabab Al Ahli host Hatta.
Al Ain face Ittihad Kalba, Al Jazira play Al Dhafra, Fujairah entertain Al Wahda and Bani Yas are pitted against Ajman.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, champions Sharjah and former club Al Dhafra are in the chase to bring 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khrbin back to the Arabian Gulf League, according to reports.
Khrbin, 25, proved a revelation at the Western Knights from January 2016-January 2017. His 16 goals in 25 top-flight games there convinced Al Hilal to invest more than Dh40 million in him, though after initial success with the Saudi Arabia giants he spent the second half of last term on loan at big-spending Egyptian upstarts Pyramids FC.
Al Roeya newspaper has stated that the trio of UAE outfits are now determining whether to meet the prolific Syria forwards Dh1m-per-month wage demands. He has two years left on his Crescent contract.
Meanwhile, Ecuador centre forward Juan Agangono is assessing whether to pursue interest from the Middle East.
Agangono, 30, has proven a hulking presence up top for clubs such as L.D.U Quito, Chicago Fire and Barcelona SC. He has received several approaches from other leading sides in his native country, but could be tempted to experience the AGL if the right offer is made.
The three-times-capped international has struck 29 times in 84 top-flight matches in his second stint at L.D.U.
“We’ll evaluate all the offers we receive and choose the best option for Juan and his family,” said agent Julio Tymczyszyn.