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.
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.
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🤙🏽❤️
“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.“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.”
Know more about Sport360 Application