The UAE could soon be celebrating its first homegrown footballer to permanently ply their trade in one of Europe’s major leagues, as English and German clubs explore the possibility of signing talented Al Wahda winger Yahya Al Ghassani.
The 21-year-old is attracting strong interest from the Bundesliga and negotiations are already under way with the Clarets to seal a historic switch.
Sources close to the player have revealed to Sport360 that Premier League outfit Burnley have also joined the race for his signature.
If completed, the seismic transfer for UAE football would see Al Ghassani become the first player born in the Emirates to seal a move to one of Europe’s top-five competitions.
Al Ghassani already has his name in the history books after he emerged as the standout member of the group allowed to feature in the Arabian Gulf League during 2018/19 after the decision by UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that children of Emirati women born to foreign fathers will be able to compete in official UAE competitions for the first time.
And last season was a breakout campaign for the tricky left-winger.
View this post on Instagram
First season for me was more than what I expected first trophy scoring on my debut being among best 10 youngsters in Asia.Sorry for the fans that we couldn’t achieve what they wanted we will fight stronger next season. Thanks for everyone who supported me and trusted me. Sorry if I haven’t met your expectations🤙🏽❤️
After his first three deeply impressive displays for Wahda, the club immediately extended his one-year deal to tie him to the Abu Dhabi side until 2023.
He was then fast-tracked into the UAE Under-23 set-up during their bid to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and he finished an electric debut season with eight goals to his name for club and country.
Born and bred in the UAE to an Emirati mother and a father who holds Tanzanian and Omani passports, it’s not the first time Al Ghassani has attracted European onlookers.
Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish sides Malaga and Leganes all kept tabs on him prior to him sealing a move to Wahda.
But the interest from Germany is concrete and the young attacker has long held an ambition to make his mark in Europe.
A player with massive potential, hallmarked by skill and will, Al Ghassani’s work ethic has always impressed.
He was first spotted by the Manchester United Academy during a two-week camp in his early teens before settling in Dubai side Al Ahli’s youth set-up when he was 15.
Now, there is genuine hope that the dexterous Al Ghassani can use his dancing feet to break ground in Europe.
Indeed, others have come close, most notably when Al Ain and UAE superstar Omar Abdulrahman dazzled during a trial with Manchester City in 2012 before work permit issues scuppered any deal.
In the same year, seasoned UAE international and Wahda defender Hamdan Al Kamali was loaned to Lyon but only featured for the reserves.
His younger brother Hamid spent time on loan with Maltese outfit Valetta FC in 2014, even turning out in the preliminary stages of the UEFA Champions League, the first – and only, to date – Emirati to feature in the competition.
Oleksandr Zinchenko has signed a new and improved deal to keep him at Manchester City until 2024.
Signed from Russian side FC Ufa three years ago, the 22-year-old kicked on last season and established himself as an important player under Pep Guardiola as City completed the domestic treble.
Zinchenko played 29 times in all competitions during City’s memorable 2018-19 campaign and has now been rewarded with a three-year contract extension.
“It’s difficult to express how happy I am to sign this deal,” the Ukraine international said.
“This club offers players everything they need to improve and develop, so being here for five more years is an honour.
“This season shows we are built for success. It’s been amazing to be involved in such a historic campaign and it’s one I’ll never forget.
“But I am now completely focused on the coming years and I know more good times are around the corner.”
Zinchenko looked set to leave City last summer but stayed at the Etihad Stadium and proved a reliable option at left-back for Guardiola.
The new contract comes hot on the heels of right-back Kyle Walker agreeing a new deal until 2024 on Wednesday.
Kyle Walker has signed a two-year contract extension at Manchester City, the Premier League champions have announced.
The England right-back, who joined City in a £45million switch from Tottenham in 2017, is now committed to the club until 2024.
Walker, 29, has made 100 appearances for City in all competitions and won the Premier League in both of his seasons at the club. He has also won two League Cups and the FA Cup.
“I’m thrilled to have signed a new deal,” Walker told the club’s website, www.mancity.com. “Playing for City has been everything I’d hoped it would be and more.
“It was an easy decision. I want to be competing for trophies, playing at the highest level, and I feel I have improved hugely as a player during my time here.
“The club’s vision – both on and off the pitch – matches mine perfectly and I’m looking forward to spending the next five years here, hopefully winning more silverware.”
Walker was one of five major new arrivals in the summer of 2017 as manager Pep Guardiola reshaped his squad.
News of his renewal comes amid speculation the club are looking to bring in additional cover in the right-back position, with Joao Cancelo of Juventus linked.
Director of football Txiki Begiristain added: “We are delighted to have Kyle here for a further two years.
“His strength, speed and ability have been vital to our accomplishments. He is a key member of the squad.
“His experience is invaluable, particularly to the younger members of the team, and his contribution will be crucial in our efforts for continued success.”
The deal is City’s first major piece of player business this summer.
They are also expected to strengthen their defensive midfield resources. Rodri, of Atletico Madrid, is being heavily linked with a move to the Etihad Stadium.
Provided by Press Association Sport