ABU DHABI // Omar Abdulrahman says “his heart is in Al Ain” after the Emirati was criticised last week for comments made regarding his desire to play in Europe.
The Al Ain playmaker, continually linked with a transfer abroad, had been questioned about a possible move outside the UAE after Thursday's friendly match against Manchester City.
In 2012, Abdulrahman enjoyed a two-week trial with the English Premier League champions and has since reportedly attracted interest from a selection of European sides, including Benfica, Valencia and Arsenal.
On Thursday, Abdulrahman said he would one day like to compete in Europe, as he feels it would benefit not only him but UAE football. His remarks were interpreted by some fans as an attempt to instigate a move away from Al Ain.
Yet, having delivered a man-of-the-match performance in Sunday's President's Cup in a 1-0 victory against Al Ahli, Abdulrahman reiterated his deep affection for his club.
“The fans know me and they know how much I love them,” he said. “Today I showed that on the pitch and, with my colleagues, we showed our fighting spirit. Team spirit is more important than any personal issues.
“This proves that my heart is in Al Ain whatever the situation.”
Abdulrahman was visibly fired up for Sunday’s clash at Zayed Sports City and provided Al Ain’s chief attacking threat. The midfielder, 22, set up the winning goal for Asamoah Gyan and, at the final whistle, led his side’s frenzied celebrations.
He departed the stadium clutching the trophy. “The desire and the effort of the players returned us to our rightful place,” he said.
“It’s the least we could offer our fans. Look at these fans, it would have been a shame to disappoint them. We couldn’t let them go home sad.”
Al Ain’s triumph meant the 11-time UAE champions concluded the 2013/14 on a high note, despite a hugely disappointing defence of their Arabian Gulf League title.
Having lifted the top-flight trophy the past two seasons, Al Ain finished in sixth place, 21 points behind Ahli, the eventual winners.
The President’s Cup success, and last week’s qualification for the Asian Champions League quarter-finals, completed a remarkable turnaround under manager Zlatko Dalic. The Croatian arrived at the club only in March but has overseen a run of 13 matches unbeaten.
“Zlatko is a special coach and, as players, whatever we say cannot give him the best praise he really deserves,” said Khalid Essa, the Al Ain goalkeeper. “He identified our weaknesses and has worked hard on tackling them, and then he improved our strengths to great effect. Words cannot give him the credit he deserves.
“Winning the President’s Cup means so much to us. It is a precious victory, despite all we’ve gone through during this poor season. However, with winning this cup and reaching the quarter-finals in Asia, we have finally saved our season.”
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