Ex Man United trialist and Burnley, Bundesliga target Yahya Al Ghassani determined to make it big in Europe

Alex Rea 23/06/2019
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Al Wahda winger Yahya Al Ghassani [Credit @AlWahdaFCC]

Talented winger Yahya Al Ghassani’s lifelong ambition of playing football in Europe is edging closer to reality, but the Al Wahda star says he is adamant any potential switch will be just the beginning.

The 21-year-old is attracting interest from the Bundesliga and Premier League, with two unnamed German clubs alongside Burnley exploring the possibility of acquiring the electric forward this summer.

Contact has been with Arabian Gulf League outfit Wahda and negotiations are under way for a deal which would see Al Ghassani become the first UAE-born player to make a permanent move to one of Europe’s top-five leagues.

And although there is still plenty of work to be done to conclude a dream move abroad, the former Manchester United trialist is determined to finally make his mark in the big time.

“It’s always been my dream to play in Europe, but not just play in Europe, to make it big there,” Al Ghassani told Sport360.

“To play there is not hard, but to make it big is very hard.

“It’s a dream I’ve had since I was six-years old because I always wanted to play alongside Robinho, who was my favourite player growing up.

“When I was at Manchester United at 14, I knew it was possible. I was just playing football like any normal kid but when I was there, I knew it could be a reality for me to make it.

“From that moment, I’ve been working hard to make this come true.”

Working hard is the key quote because Al Ghassani has been logging hours on the training ground and in the gym since the conclusion of the 2018/19 AGL season in May.

The UAE Under-23 forward, who scored eight goals for club and country during an electric debut campaign, declined the opportunity for a vacation and instead has been grinding ahead of the Maroon’s AFC Asian Champions League round-of-16 clash with Saudi Professional League champions Al Nassr in August.

“Talent is not enough, that is why I sacrificed any vacation. I want to work hard, I have to get ready for the next season and football is all I think about so this is not difficult for me at all,” Al Ghassani added.

“I am still at the very beginning of my career. I have to sacrifice a lot and I have to work so incredibly hard because everyone knows talent is not enough in this game.

“Hard work will be the key to my success and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”

The UAE-born Tanzanian was singled out as one of the most promising young stars to look out for in the competition by the AFC and although injury punctured his opportunity to live up to that billing, his domestic form was impressive.

Al Ghassani says he is naturally delighted to be considered one of Asian football’s shining lights, but knows that tag comes with responsibility.

“It’s massive for me to be considered one of the most promising young players from Asia, but of course without Al Wahda I wouldn’t have been in this position,” he said.

“Any club I may join, and especially in Europe, they will expect me to hit the levels expected of someone with this reputation.

“Everyone knows there is talent in Asia and I have to show that it’s true.”

He added: “I am ready for this challenge, of course I have to be, because it is such a big step.

“But there’s still a lot which needs to be sorted because it depends on Al Wahda.

“They will decide my future, whether to accept or decline any offers, they have that right because I am contracted to them for another four years and I respect the club entirely.”

For now, Al Ghassani’s focus remains on Wahda as the team head off for a summer training camp in the Netherlands on Monday, taking in a friendly with 2009/10 Eredivisie winners FC Twente.

But as negotiations accelerate toward a dream move to Europe, the young forward was keen to thank his current club for guiding him to this point.

Yahya Al Ghassani (right) in action last season [Credit: Pro League]

Yahya Al Ghassani (right) in action last season [Credit: Pro League]

“Al Wahda has given me such an unbelievable platform to showcase my skills,” he said.

“Before I came to Al Wahda, I had many trials all over the world but they were the ones who gave me a great opportunity.

“I owe them so much gratitude for everything they’ve done for me and I really cannot thank the owner Sheikh Diab bin Zayed Al Nahyan. As soon as I signed for Wahda, he came and spoke to me personally and motivated me so much.

“I’m grateful for his and the club’s guidance in helping my career so far.

“The atmosphere at the club has been brilliant. My debut season was fantastic.

“We won the Arabian Gulf Super Cup in my first game, I scored on my league debut and from there it has been amazing, more than what I could have expected.

“I hope everything goes well for this move, but if not I still have four more years with the club.”

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Bundesliga clubs interested in historic move for Al Wahda wonderkid Yahya Al Ghassani

Alex Rea 21/06/2019
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Yahya Al Ghassani (Twitter/@AlWahdaFCC)

The UAE could soon be celebrating its first homegrown footballer to permanently ply their trade in one of Europe’s major leagues, as 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 Maroons to seal a historic switch.

If completed, the seismic transfer 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.

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.

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Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich agree deal for Mats Hummels

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Hummels during his Dortmund days with Jurgen Klopp.

Mats Hummels is set to return to Borussia Dortmund from Bayern Munich after the two clubs agreed a deal on Wednesday.

The defender, who left Dortmund for Bayern in 2016, will head back to the Westfalenstadion for a reported €38 million (£33.8million).

Bayern said in a statement they had “agreed to a deal for the transfer of the centre-back”, who will now undergo a medical at Dortmund.

The 30-year-old, who won the Bundesliga title in each of his three seasons at the Allianz Arena, is returning to the club he first joined from Bayern in 2009, winning two league titles in his first spell there.

He established himself as one of most highly regarded defenders in Europe in his seven years at Dortmund and was a key member of the Germany team which won the World Cup in 2014.

Hummels has won 70 caps, but his international career is on hold in the wake of the team’s awful 2018 World Cup and Nations League campaigns.

Boss Joachim Low has opted to focus on the next generation of German players, with Hummels one of the old guard who has been told he is not in the coach’s plans.

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