Friday’s Arabian Gulf Cup quarter-finals are about far more than the pursuit of glory.
This competition has long been used as a breeding ground for the next generation of premium talent. The ranks of the current UAE national side are filled with players who got their first tastes of senior football within it.
2019/20’s competition has been no different.
Al Wahda’s striking sensation Abdullah Anwar, 20, has been the obvious beneficiary, after netting six times in his four appearances to date. He features in a list of five standout talents who could gain valuable competitive minutes this weekend:
Club: Al Wahda
Position: Centre forward
2019/20 AG Cup record: Four appearances, six goals
A red-hot striking prodigy emerged from the boiling UAE summer.
August’s opening pair of AG Cup fixtures featured five goals in two matches for Anwar – a player who was previously known only to a select few at Al Nahyan Stadium.
The wiry striker – whose unnerving finishing and burst of speed are reminiscent of Arsenal great Ian Wright – has only be gifted 14 minutes in the top flight. But this just means he’ll just relish any extra exposure against Al Jazira.
Club: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club
Position: Centre forward
2019/20 AG Cup record: Four appearances, three goals
This is, effectively, the second breakthrough season of Jumaa’s young career.
The 2015/16 season at – the now extinct – Al Shabab featured three goals in 21 top-flight run-outs. Then, he effectively disappeared from view.
Back to full fitness and imbued by boss Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s belief, the diminutive attacker has an excellent five goals in 10 appearances this term. Al Wasl are next in his line of sight.
Club: Al Ain
2019/20 AG Cup record: Six appearances, zero goals
The Al Ain hierarchy know how to spot a promising defender – and now it’s Jumaa’s time.
Patience has defined the versatile 21-year-old since 2016/17’s first taste of the action under Zlatko Dalic. Fast forward to the present and fellow Croat Ivan Leko has made him a cornerstone of his side.
Jumaa has started all 13 of the Boss’ domestic fixtures to date. Friday’s date with Sharjah should be no different.
2019/20 AG Cup record: Three appearances, zero goals
An influx of teenage foreign talent has been one of 2019/20’s defining features.
Few have made more of an impact than Meloni. The former Palmeiras B starlet has featured in all seven top-flight run-outs, netting once in the 5-1 routing of Al Wasl.
If match fit, he’ll fancy a crack at holders Shabab Al Ahli this weekend.
Club: Al Nasr
2019/20 AG Cup record: Two appearances, zero goals
Al Nasr do have much to thank Benat San Jose for.
But February’s decision by the maligned ex-coach to raid the youth ranks for Suwaidan has proven inspired in 2019/20.
Regular games since have highlighted a full-back of genuine promise, ahead of the knockout clash with Fujairah.
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