ABU DHABI // Any hopes Pro League clubs had of luring Ryan Giggs to the UAE were dashed yesterday when David Gill, Manchester United's chief executive, revealed he expects the Welshman to extend his stay at Old Trafford.
Al Ain, Al Ahli, Al Wasl and Al Nasr were all alerted to the potential availability of the 37-year-old who is out of contract at the end of the season and would have been free to talk to foreign clubs from this month.
Giggs met with Tony Coton, the former United goalkeeper who is now the goalkeeping coach at Alhi while on holiday in Dubai with his wife, Stacey, earlier this month and was keen to hear Coton's take on expatriate life.
But Gill, who was in Abu Dhabi to unveil plans to expand United's presence in the capital with the launch of an extended Manchester United Soccer Schools programme, expects Giggs to commit to a 22nd season with United and add to the 600 league appearances he has made for the Premier League giants.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he extends it [his contract] for another season," Gill said. "That will be addressed in the next month or so. He's been playing well, keeps himself in great shape and is a wonderful advert for the modern footballer."
However, Gary Neville, the former England full-back, is unlikely to be offered a new deal and may decide to extend his career in the UAE. Al Jazira, the Abu Dhabi-based club, could be a possible destination.
The chances of a player one day heading in the opposite direction from the Pro League to the Premier League could, according to Gill, be boosted by Qatar being awarded the 2022 World Cup. He feels the tournament will raise the profile and standard of the game in the Gulf.
"The World Cup will be a key opportunity to ensure football continues to develop," Gill said. "It's going to be a real catalyst for developing the football, the league structures, the players.
"I think it takes time. Don't forget football's been going in Europe and South America, in terms of the league structure, for many years. These things have to develop.
"Obviously [East] Asian football got a big spurt from the World Cup going there to Japan and South Korea [in 2002]. I don't think you can put a timeframe on this sort of thing."
Ali al Habsi, the Omani international goalkeeper currently on loan at Wigan Athletic from Bolton Wanderers, is the Gulf's only Premier League player.
However, Gill believes there is lots of talent in the Gulf and the club's soccer schools, in partnership with Reem Investments, is a sign of their intention to deepen their roots in the region and their hopes of, one day, unearthing a Premier League-standard player.
"Football's really become a worldwide game," Gill said. "How we scout for players, where we scout for players has changed as football continues to evolve.
"We don't have specific scouts in the area [the Gulf], but it's a small world now. We pick up all the games. We follow every lead."
But Gill said it is important United do not lose track of their roots and continue to develop homegrown players such as Giggs, Paul Scholes and Neville. "I don't think we'd ever field a team full of foreigners," he said. "When those great players, who have been part of the team for 15-odd years retire, others will step up.
"Darren Fletcher, although he is Scottish, has been with us since he was a boy. Danny Welbeck is doing well. We've got the Da Silvas [Rafael and Fabio] from Brazil, who have both been with us for many years. Hopefully we'll have players coming through the academy who understand what being a United player means."