Al Ain have reiterated that Omar Abdulrahman will be staying at the club beyond this season, dampening hopes the player could make his long-awaited move to Europe.
The Al Ain captain, 26, has for some time been linked with a transfer to Europe and in the past has attracted interest from England, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Turkey. Last summer, French side Nice made an offer to take Abdulrahman on loan with the view to a permanent transfer, although the deal never materialised.
The upcoming window was again seen as crucial to Abdulrahman’s future. His contract at Al Ain is set to expire, with an agreement on an extension yet to be signed.
However, the club and the 2016 Asian player of the year have both repeatedly stated their desire to continue, while Abdulrahman also spoke last week about wanting to represent the UAE at club level outside of the country. To date, no Emirati has plied his trade permanently in one of Europe’s major leagues.
Speaking after Al Ain’s Arabian Gulf League title coronation on Sunday night, chairman Ghanim Al Hajeri tackled a number of outstanding issues concerning the UAE champions, including the contract situation with his star player.
“I can confirm that [Omar] is staying with the club for next season, where we are faced with the most important of challenges,” Al Hajeri said. “The most important thing is competing in the Fifa Club World Cup, for which we have already began working towards.
“There is also the Asian Champions League, and the objectives of Al Ain club require every player to be in the team.”
Al Hajeri highlighted the club's work in the transfer market as key to their 13th league title, particularly in the January recruitment of Egyptian midfielder Hussein El Shahat. He praised the team for their top-flight triumph, but said attention now switches to a difficult match against Al Wasl in Thursday's President's Cup final.
Al Ain have the last 16 of the Asian Champions League to come, too, against Qatar’s Al Duhail. The two legs take place on May 8 and 15.
On the subject of manager Zoran Mamic's contract extension - the Croat confirmed last week that he will stay next season - Al Hajeri said: "The agreement with coach Zoran has reached an advanced stage and is around 90 per cent complete. Zoran has done a good job, with record numbers."
Mamic joined the club in January last year, replacing compatriot Zlatko Dalic. The AGL title marked his first piece of silverware with the Garden City club.