Al Jazira striker Ali Mabkhout was named Emirati Player of the Year, while Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain were heavily rewarded as the AGL's annual prizes were handed out in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night.
Defensive rock Mohanad Salem has set himself ambitious targets of continued success with Al Ain and helping the UAE national team scale new heights.
Salem’s solid displays at the heart of the Boss rearguard were rewarded as he was named in the AGL Team of the Year and singled out by the supporters as Fan’s Player of the Year.
And the 30-year-old stopper said: “I feel really proud to be one of the best defenders in the league but it’s not about me doing it alone.
“It was the whole team that pushed me to be better and better. To be nominated is really huge bec-ause I am a defender. Normally it is the attackers who win awards so to be nominated is amazing.”
As well as his exploits in the Garden City, Salem has emerged as a key player for Mahdi Ali’s national team.
In particular, he enjoyed a fantastic run in the Asian Cup in Australia with his superb display in the quarter-final victory over Japan marking him out as one of the best defenders in the competition.
The Whites are now hoping to build on their progress and take steps towards Russia 2018, with one eye on the continental competition coming to the UAE the following year.
“One of the things I am focusing on is the World Cup with the national team and also for the Asian Cup,” added Salem.
“These are our main goals and we are improving.”
Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic is confident the club’s new signings will make them a dynamic attacking force next term – even without departed top-scorer Asamoah Gyan.
The Croatian boss was named the Arabian Gulf League’s Coach of the Year on Sunday night in recognition of guiding his side to the title in emphatic fashion last season.
However, he has since seen on-loan winger Miroslav Stoch return to Fenerbahce and club legend Gyan sold for big money to Chinese outfit Shanghai SIPG.
In their places have arrived former Liverpool wideman Ryan Babel and Nigerian centre forward Emmanuel Emenike. And Dalic believes the pair will “refresh the team” as the Boss seek a fourth AGL crown in five seasons.
“Gyan is a fantastic player who gave everything for Al Ain and Al Ain gave him so much as well,” said Dalic.
“After four years it is normal for him to leave, it is football. If somebody gives the club double the money, why not go?
“But Al Ain need a change too, we need to refresh the team so I agree that Gyan should go and he deserves to go and take a new chance in his career. He didn’t have anything left to prove.
“It will be ok because they [Gyan and Emenike] are similar players. It is a new challenge for Emmanuel. He’s hungry and I hope he will help me and help my team and be part of our success next season.
“You know that Gyan did not play too much last season for my team. We had to deal without him but I appreciate him and I am sorry that he has gone, but that is football and life.
“We have also bought Babel and he will change games. He is the same style of player as Miro (Stoch) and it is a new challenge.
"It is a new player and a fresh player and I think it will be better than last season, I expect to be better than last season.”
Having guided the Boss to the league title with a cushion of a whopping nine points over runners-up Al Jazira, Dalic was an obv-ious choice for Coach of the Year at the AGL’s annual awards ceremony.
The popular 48-year-old was quick to shift the plaudits elsewhere, however, and admitted their Asian Champions League quarter-final exit to domestic rivals Al Ahli was a lingering disappointment.
“I am happy for this award and to be nominated as one of the three best coaches in the league,” Dalic added.
“Last season my team did a fantastic job and I’m very happy and proud.
“It’s not only my win, it is for my team, my players, my staff, everybody in my club is part of this award.
“We played well, we played fantastic football in the last 15 months but then in the last five days we lost two games and it was disappointing for Al Ain because we expect big results and lots of trophies.
“But we did a fantastic job and we’re looking like a team. I am satisfied with the season although I am disappointed with the Champions League.”