Sebastian Tagliabue admits he still dreams of representing the UAE at national team level after original hopes faded earlier this year.
Al Wahda striker Tagliabue refers to the Abu Dhabi club as “his second home in football” and he had been earmarked as a potential pick for the Whites’ Asian Cup squad in January, having become eligible for naturalisation last summer.
The 34-year-old Argentine was rumoured to be under consideration for a spot in then UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni’s squad for the tournament – held in the Emirates – along with Al Wasl’s Brazilian duo Fabio De Lima and Caio Canedo (now of Al Ain).
The trio had become available under FIFA rules, with Tagliabue a constant resident since he was purchased from Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab Riyadh in June 2013.
The Buenos Aires native overtook Asamoah Gyan as the Arabian Gulf League’s all-time top-scoring foreign player last year and was left upset at not being able to earn a UAE call-up – although he holds out hope it is still possible as he goes into his seventh AGL season.
“Yes, of course,” he told Sport360 when asked if he would accept an invitation were he to be approached by the UAE Football Association again.
“How do I say no to the national team of this country? They’ve given me everything. My youngest son is eight-years-old and 90 per cent of his life he has lived here.
“Of course if, I can help now or in six months I have the opportunity in my football career. I will take it and try to help the country.”
The last thing Tagliabue was told was, “everything is ready” for him to earn a cap for his adopted nation, but after he’d completed a medical and filled in all the relevant paperwork, he never heard another word from anyone in authority, which he said was the most disappointing aspect.
“The last words I knew was that ‘everything is ready, we have all the papers, we will give them to the president’,” said the man referred to affectionately by Clarets fans as ‘Tigali’.
“After that nobody called me again, the Asian Cup was gone and nobody spoke with me again. But believe me it was something I wanted to do.
“I don’t know what happened with the other players – Caio and De Lima – but what happened with me is they wanted to give me the passport to play the Asian Cup. It was especially for the Asian Cup.
“I don’t know what happened with this and the guy who spoke with me. I already did the blood test, the check-up, I signed some papers and what I knew [is that] they gave all the papers to the president of the country and after that I didn’t know anything.
“I think the president said ‘no’, I don’t know. Maybe they didn’t give (the papers), maybe something happened in the middle and they decided no, and the president didn’t say anything or the paper didn’t reach him.”
The UAE, chastised for playing dull, uninspiring football under former AC Milan coach Zaccheroni, ended up reaching the semi-finals of the tournament, where they lost to eventual champions Qatar.
Tagliabue added: “In the beginning I never expect that. For that I was not angry when I didn’t get it. My (reason for being) upset was, if you come to me and offer me something, come to me after and say ‘sorry, it’s not possible’ and I will say ‘thank you so much for thinking of me’. For even giving me the chance to dream of that.
“From the beginning I knew maybe 70/80 per cent it was not possible. Some people work like this, but I don’t accept that. I’m not like this. But it’s OK. It was an amazing time and a nice dream.”
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