AGL preview: Omar Abdulrahman, Ali Mabkhout and the locals to look for
The Arabian Gulf League 2016/17 season kicks off on Friday night with three matches across the Emirates. Ahead of the new UAE domestic season, John McAuley takes a look at the locals to watch.
• See also: John McAuley’s foreigners to watch
Omar Abdulrahman (Al Ain)
UAE football’s crown jewel, the Al Ain playmaker’s star continues to rise with club and country: this month alone, he shone for the UAE in World Cup qualifying and then helped Al Ain into the Asian Champions League semi-finals. Abdulrahman, 25 next week, was last season’s AGL Emirati player of the year, leading the assist charts with 12.
Ali Mabkhout (Al Jazira)
A record-breaking season last year, the Jazira striker struck 23 times in the league – a professional-era record for an Emirati – to take his overall tally for the campaign to 30 goals in 32 appearances. Scored in Jazira’s President’s Cup final victory. Looks likely to lead the attack in Mirko Vucinic’s continued absence. Can Mabkhout, 25, do even better?
Ahmed Khalil (Al Ahli)
The current Asian player of the year proved his worth to Ahli last season, scoring sevens goals as the club were crowned league champions. However, with the loan-acquisition of Asamoah Gyan and Rodrigo Lima’s return from injury, it remains to be seen if Khalil, 25, gets substantial game-time. One of the UAE’s main men, he deserves to.
Khalfan Mubarak (Al Jazira)
Likened to Omar Abdulrahman and described as “little Messi” by teammate Mirko Vucinic, the Jazira playmaker no doubt has the talent to be a major player this season. Possessing superb technique and a killer pass, Mubarak, 21, will hope manager Henk ten Cate’s trust in youth equates to more minutes on the pitch. A potential star.
Mohammed Malalla (Hatta)
The fourth highest-scoring Emirati last season, the forward found the net six times for Emirates club. Hatta’s move for him therefore made sense, with the newly promoted side keen to add firepower in their bid to stay in the division. Malalla, 32, has the experience and quality to help achieve that goal.
Ahmed Dida (Baniyas)
Understudy to Majed Naser at Ahli, the UAE international back-up goalkeeper has the chance to excel at new club Baniyas. Dida, 27, played an integral role in Ahli’s run to the Asian Champions League final last year, but made only 14 league appearances in two and a half seasons there. Rectifies a problem area for Baniyas.
Published: September 15, 2016 04:00 AM