Al Ain playmaker Omar Abdulrahman’s ascension to 2016 AFC Player of the Year could act as inspiration
towards a historic transfer to Europe, according to celebrated former team-mate Asamoah Gyan.
Abdulrahman, 25, beat China winger Wu Lei and Iraq striker Hammadi Ahmed to the honour at the glamorous 2016 AFC Annual Awards on Thursday in Abu Dhabi.
This topped off an incredible campaign, which contained eight man of the matches in 14 games during Al Ain’s path to defeat in the AFC Champions League final to South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
The perennial question about becoming the first UAE international to transfer permanently to the old continent in the post-ceremony press conference received a non-committal reply from ‘Amoory’.
For Gyan, who scored 128 goals in 123 matches alongside him in the Garden City from 2011-15, this honour might act as the spark which would force through a seismic switch.
“I think he deserves it,” said the Ghana striker, who is on loan at Al Ahli from China’s Shanghai SIPG. “He has every right to win the award. I think he deserves it. He is a great player, with great vision. He has incredible quality.
“From my memories, he made me score a lot of goals. Most of my success here come from him. He has been able to lead a team to the (AFC Champions League) final. I think he deserves it.
“I have had a couple of talks with him. He wished to play in Europe two years ago, but I don’t know what he has decided now.
“I think he has that quality to play in Europe. But he needs to dedicate himself more, for the training. He is not somebody who likes to work in the gym. But he is great, as far as he does his work on the field – I think he can play.”
Further validation for the talent contained in the ‘Golden Generation’ is shown by the fact Abdulrahman was following on from Al Ahli forward Ahmed Khalil’s opening success for an Emirati last year.
UAE and Ahli left-back Walid Abbas, 31, insisted the talent pool was so deep for the World Cup 2018-chasers that another triumph in the next edition could not be discounted.
He said: “It is good for us, especially our players. I think we deserve this. That means we have good players and we hope (to win) next year, also. Omar deserves to win this title. He played good with the national team and also with Al Ain.
“It is good for him and for our national team. He is improving and getting a lot of experience. I think because he was a bit young, now he is playing a lot of international and AFC Champions League games. I think his teammates have also supported him.”
Brazilian forward Leonardo was one of the leading lights of the 2016 ACL, scoring 10 times in 14 games for winners Jeonbuk. He declared he had rarely witnessed a talent like ‘Amoory’.
“I never saw a player like this in Asia,” he said. “I play against China teams, Australia teams and Japanese teams, and I never saw one player like this.”
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