DUBAI // Quique Sanchez Flores has described the teenage striker Khalfan Mubarak as a genius and the Al Ahli coach believes the youngster has the potential to be as good as the Al Ain and UAE star Omar Abdulrahman in the coming years.
The Spaniard's assessment came after a disappointing Etisalat Cup campaign for the defending champions, who managed to win just one of their six Group C games – the last one against Dibba Al Fujairah on Sunday.
But the coach picked 17-year-old Mubarak as one of the positives to come out of the tournament.
Mubarak made his first-team debut as a 27th minute substitute in the Deira derby against Al Shabab in January, and then took the pitch again in the game against Ajman as a 76th minute replacement.
"From the moment I saw him, I knew he had the talent of a football genius," said the former Valencia, Benfica and Atletico Madrid coach.
"He has got great skills and speed for his age and I expect him to play a significant role in UAE football in the future."
Sanchez Flores expects Mubarak to come into his own within two years if he continues to work on his fitness.
"Khalfan is much like Ammory [Omar Abdulrahman] in the way he plays," Sanchez Flores said.
"Both of them are very skilful, have speed and are very clever with the ball. Both enjoy their football. But Omar has reached an advanced stage, while Khalfan still very young and inexperienced.
"He has a lot of work to do before he reaches the level of Omar, particularly on his fitness."
Sanchez Flores, however, may not be there at Ahli to see Mubarak blossom into the player he expects the teenager to be. The Spaniard has a contract until the end of the season and he remains non-committal on his future.
"The end of the season is still long away and we have not talked about this," he said. "Right now, my focus is on working with the team and doing my job. All I can say is I enjoy it here."
The contracts of Grafite and Yousuf Mohammed are also up for renewal after the end of the season, and while club officials are keen to keep the Brazilian striker, the Lebanese defender is unsure of his future at Ahli.
According to sources, Grafite is looking for a two-year extension, but Ahli are reluctant to extend his contract by more than a year given his age. He will turn 34 next month and club officials doubt if he can continue at the same level for two more years.
There have been no such discussions with the Lebanese, and Mohammed said: "My contract ends in May and any player in my situation would be thinking about his future and not wait until the last minute for the club to speak to him.
"If the club want to renew my contract, we'll talk. But if they decide they don't want me, I will wish them all the best."
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