The Pro League men taking centre stage
Yousuf Abdulrahman (Al Ain) One of the outstanding players in UAE's campaign at the Youth World Cup in Egypt last year and the Under 23 Gulf Cup earlier this year, Abdulrahman has the safest pair of hands in the country. Given that he is only 21, and goalkeepers usually peak as they get older, he looks to have a particularly bright future.
Fabio Cannavaro (Al Ahli) With a World Cup winners' medal, a Fifa Player of the Year award and numerous other accolades, the Italian is the biggest name to grace UAE club football. At 36, his age may have slowed him down, but his experience and poise would be invaluable to the side. Cannavaro also gets the captain's armband - something that he has had at two World Cups for Italy.
Hamdan al Kamali (Al Wahda) Nicknamed "The Rock" for his tough-tackling ways, al Kamali would form a formidable pairing with Cannavaro at centre-back. A natural leader, blessed with ample skills and a maturity beyond his 21 years, he has been at the head of UAE's "golden generation". He also has a knack of scoring crucial goals in dead-ball situations.
Waleed Abbas (Al Shabab) The left-back does not figure among the UAE's glamour footballers, but he is a diehard on the pitch and is one of the first names on the national team sheets. His qualities came to the fore when Al Shabab won the league title in 2008. A tireless runner on the flanks, he is always in the middle of the action and his frail frame belies an inherent toughness. Abbas makes the team ahead of some bigger names for his work-rate and attitude.
Yousuf Jaber (Baniyas) Jaber, a UAE international and a league title winner with Al Ahli, is another of tireless performers, in the mould of Abbas. The 25-year-old makes his presence felt on the pitch with his lightning runs on the right - organising attacks, helping out in the midfield and then falling back for his defensive duties. Few can match his blistering pace or energy in the field.
Ibrahim Diaky (Al Jazira) A veteran of UAE football with 215 appearances for Al Jazira, the Ivory Coast-born midfielder, 28, has consistently been one of the best players in the league since joining Jazira in 2006. He can be a creator or an enforcer as needs arise. As Jazira chase an elusive league title, Diaky will again shoulder the bulk of the responsibilities.
Amer Abdulrahman (Baniyas) Picked as one of the five best players at the Youth World Cup in Egypt last year and player of the tournament at the U23 Gulf Cup last month, the diminutive playmaker, aged 21, is one of the most skilful players in the country, delightful to watch as he weaves his magic around defences and midfields. He should play a leading role, even if his appearances are limited by international commitments.
Sultan Bargash (Al Jazira) Another member of Mahdi Ali's magical band who impressed at the Youth World Cup last year, Bargash, 21, is a bustling midfielder in the mould of a Italy's Gennaro Gattuso, tough-tackling and elusive on the attack. He will also miss part of the season due the Olympic and national teams, but in the matches he plays for Jazira he will have ample opportunities to cement his growing reputation.
Matias Emilio Delgado (Al Jazira) The Argentine player, 27 years of age, is a newcomer to the Emirates, but comes with an impressive reputation. A creative playmaker, he had a phenomenal strike rate at FC Basel in Switzerland with 58 goals from 113 games. He was also the captain of Besiktas in Turkey and has won a league title, two Turkish Cups and a Super Cup with the club. Adept at free-kicks and sharp with headers, he is set to leave defences bemused and Jazira fans entertained.
Jose Sand (Al Ain) The top scorer in the Pro League last season with 24 goals, the former Argentina international is a top-class striker. Before arriving at Al Ain, Sand had become the first player since Diego Maradona in 1980 to top-score in consecutive tournaments in Argentina - the 2008 Apertura and the 2009 Clausura. He continued with the same proficiency in the Pro League last season and is again a candidate for the golden boot.
Ahmed Khalil (Al Ahli) The 2008 Asian Youth Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player at the Asia U19 Championship and top scorer at the U23 Gulf Cup last month, Khalil is one of the biggest talents in UAE football. He is expected to stay at the top for many years to come, given that he is aged just 19 and has the ability to score some stunning goals. email@example.com
Published: August 25, 2010 04:00 AM