DUBAI // Two of the Pro League's top foreign players believe the time is right for Omar Abdulrahman to seek a transfer to Europe, with one agreeing Spain's Primera Liga represents his best chance of success.
The Al Ain playmaker is believed to be close to becoming the first Emirati to play permanently in one of world football's major leagues, with the UAE champions this week reportedly hosting officials from a prominent European club with a view to a deal being brokered.
Valencia have been mooted as that side, although nothing has been confirmed either here or in Spain. Abdulrahman said earlier this month that, while he is confident he has the ability to excel in any top division, he feels Spain's Primera Liga offers him the most likely environment to flourish.
That is a view shared by Achille Emana, the Cameroon international currently at Al Wasl, who spent three years in Spain with Real Betis before eventually finding residence in the Emirates.
Emana had previously featured for Toulouse in France's Ligue 1 - he made more than 200 appearances for the club - and believes the style of play favoured in La Liga would complement Abdulrahman.
"In Spain, the football is very technical, where the No 10 [a playmaker] is given the opportunity to succeed," Emana said.
"Whereas France would be too physical for Abdulrahman, as would the English Premier League and Germany's Bundesliga.
"Someone like Abdulrahman, who has this arrogance on the pitch, will be OK in Spain because lots of players have the same personality. But in the others leagues, the opposition don't like it as much.
"For me, he's good enough to play in Spain, but it needs to be in the right situation, with a team playing good football and not one fighting relegation."
Emana did warn that, in his opinion, Abdulrahman would need to toughen up mentally if he is to thrive in Europe.
"He needs to change his mindset to take the mentality of a winner," Emana said. "Because in the UAE he has it all, he's the big star here. But in Europe, nobody knows him, and if he goes, he needs to want to improve every day.
"Players there are more hungry, and you have to want to be better every day and to win all the time. Not just for yourself, but to show people outside that you can play. Abdulrahman's a good player, but he also needs to make a good decision for him. Not for Al Ain, or for the country, but for him."
While Abdulrahman says he is content to remain at Al Ain until a suitable opportunity is presented, another one of the Pro League's constituents with experience in Europe says this is the time to make the leap.
Mohamed Zidan, the accomplished Egyptian now at Baniyas, began his professional career in Denmark age 17, before enjoying a successful sevens years in the German Bundesliga. In all, Zidan has represented Werder Bremen, Mainz, Hamburg and Borussia Dortmund, twice winning the German title with the latter.
"Omar Abdulrahman is a wonderful talent, and clearly has a great future ahead of him," Zidan said. "But I would be concerned if he delays his move abroad for too long.
"The longer you leave it, the harder it becomes to acclimatise. When you're young and face difficulties, you've no choice but to get your head down and fight, whereas if you're very content somewhere, are on a very good contract and a star there, it will be hard to travel and start all over again.
"But when you go as a young man, you can overcome the obstacles because of your hunger. For that, I see that if Abdulrahman gets a move, he will represent Emirati football with pride. This is the right time."
Zidan also said Abdulrahman could be the first of the current crop of Emiratis to migrate abroad, citing Amer Abdulrahman and Mohammed Fawzi, teammates at Baniyas, and Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil of Al Jazira and Al Ahli, respectively, as potential successes in European football.
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