2. Omar Abdulrahman (Last Year: 1)
Al Ain (UAE) / UAE / Attacking Midfield
Words by Hamoudi Fayad
If you’re not a weekly watcher of “Amoory”, you’ll definitely be wondering why the hell he isn’t in Europe. That question has been asked circa a million times by intrigued Emiratis, anticipative Gulf citizens and most of all by European fans themselves. Abdulrahman is a huge fan of Arsenal (unfortunately he’s as defensively useless for his side as Mesut Özil so I don’t think he’d be an adequate replacement…), but nothing seems to make him budge from the $3.8m a year (without bonuses) that he earns with his club side Al-Ain.
Amoory’s year in terms of collective trophies, however, was not on the list of his team’s best seasons. A Zlatko Dalic-led side failed to win any trophy in the year of 2016, losing the UAE President’s Cup final and the Asian Champions League final within the space of six months.
That, well, was better for Amoory’s individual image. His back must be paining, agonizingly, after he was labelled Al-Ain’s carrier by friends and foes in Emirati football after a year of keeping his team at the top level. But a dark moment that may haunt his career forever is being selfless enough to give Douglas the penalty to equalise against Jeonbuk in the ACL final. Douglas skied it, was shifted out of the team in the next window, while Amoory still wonders what could have been. An excellent penalty taker with an exquisite ability to score panenkas, Amoory missed out on the chance to earn the final trophy he’s missed out during his time in the United Arab Emirates.
Amoory has interestingly developed himself tactically thanks to Zlatko Dalic. Sure, the latter didn’t successfully lead Al-Ain in his final year but he did bring his Pep Guardiola-esc style with him and employed a range of unorthodox tactics to wow the opposition. Unfortunately for Dalic, if John Stones was unable to be the ball-playing defender of dreams than neither was Mohanad Al-Enezi. Yet, Amoory excelled. Right wing, central midfield, attacking midfield and even as a false 9, he’s been brilliant. Pulling the strings from the defensive third on one occasion, to moving out of the centre to draw opposition defenders out on another… Amoory has done it all this year.
If that wasn’t enough, he’s been tasked with doing two jobs for the UAE national team. In modern football, your central defenders are usually the ones who build out from the back yet, but in Mahdi Ali’s side Amoory has to drop back and begin the attacks of Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil ahead of him. Unfortunately, due to his exemplar all round influence; he has to run forward and help the team in the final third, too! Amoory is the heartbeat of both sides, and without him they’d be much worse than they are at present. But with the fitness levels of a typical Arab footballer, you can only do so much.
Omar Abdulrahman has cemented himself in the list of the best free-kick takers in West Asia, if not the whole of Asia, with a range of beautiful kicks scored over the year. He also ended the 10-0 drubbing of Malaysia with six assists to his name. Even against easy opposition, Amoory is the creator. He’s added more goals to his game which is always a plus, but with Amoory’s prime knocking on the door, so should Europe, as his AFC Player of the Year Award proved that he is capable of contending with Asia’s verybest.
Highlight of the Year – AFCand GCC Player of the Year
It’s no secret that Omar Abdulrahman is the best player in the Gulf by a mile, but to win the award alongside the AFC Player of the Year award in the same month is unprecedented for the player. If only he’d won the AFC Champions League, eh?