DUBAI // Two of the region's top coaches believe Omar Abdulrahman needs to move to a European league to fulfil his potential.
Abdulrahman has for the past few seasons been tipped to become the first Emirati to excel outside the Gulf. In 2009, he rejected a switch to Spain's Primera Liga with Espanyol, while sterling performances at last summer's London Olympics prompted Manchester City to offer a two-week trial.
Abdulrahman impressed in his time with the English Premier League champions, but reportedly refused to join permanently as he felt a debt of gratitude to Al Ain, the club who helped hone his talent.
However, while the Pro League champions would undoubtedly wish to keep the young playmaker - Al Ain sit top of the table at the halfway stage and next month begin their Asian Champions League campaign - they would not block the transfer should a suitable bid be received.
According to Jorvan Vieira, the former Baniyas and Al Sharjah coach, a move to Europe would benefit Abdulrahman, although the current manager of Egypt's Zamalek says a transitional period in one of its less demanding leagues would be preferable.
"Omar can be a good player abroad and has to go if he wants to keep improving," Vieira said. "For his future, if he wants to be a football player, he has to go.
"But the Premier League is too early; he needs to go through another division first. [Germany's Bundesliga] is too physical for him just now; first he needs to build up. He is very technical, but I'm sure he would face some problems there.
"Spain? Could be, but he would not be playing in the first team. If I was a coach in Spain, I would accept him, but couldn't put him in my first X1: slowly, gradually, the second team."
Vieira, who describes Abdulrahman a "special talent", says Belgium or Portugal would provide the ideal stepping stone, adding the player could play "without problems" in France's Ligue 1.
"Omar is a boy who, if he can keep his head on his shoulders, can stay grounded, could be a great player in the Arabic world," he said. "With his quality why not try him somewhere else?
"But not immediately in the Premier League. Put him first in a club so he can understand what it means to be a professional player because the jump from amateur to professional is big.
"Yes, here they call [the football] professional, but it is different."
For Antoine Kombouare, the coach of Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal, Abdulrahman has the necessary skillset to succeed in any environment.
"He's a great player, skilful with some amazing talent, tactically as well as individually," said Kombouare, who enjoyed a lengthy career in France. "He has a great chance of playing professionally in any European league.
"If we see him in a European team, it would be very important for him. He will continue to improve only if he makes the move."
Additional reporting by Gary Meenaghan