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Uzbekistan’s Azizbek Haydarov, centre, was the heart and soul for Al Shabab. Al Ittihad
Uzbekistan’s Azizbek Haydarov, centre, was the heart and soul for Al Shabab. Al Ittihad
Ivorian Boris Kabi, left, led the line for Ajman this campaign. Mohideen / Al Ittihad
Ivorian Boris Kabi, left, led the line for Ajman this campaign. Mohideen / Al Ittihad
Al Ain’s Asamoah Gyan netted 31 goals this season. Satish Kumar / The National
Al Ain’s Asamoah Gyan netted 31 goals this season. Satish Kumar / The National

Pro League Awards: The National's best international players

Ahead of the first ever end-of-season awards, John McAuley, Amith Passela and Ahmed Rizvi choose their winners, including some ignored names they think deserved a place on the shortlist.

Boris Kabi, Ajman

written by John McAuley

If strikers are judged by the cold currency of goals, then Ajman's prolific captain would command a significant fee in the transfer market. The stats tell their own tale: Kabi's record, according to the Pro League website, conveys that during the past two seasons he has found the net 30 times in 32 league matches; a ratio of a goal every 1.06 games.

Compare that to the tallies across the same span of the league's two best frontmen, who play for two best teams, and it makes Kabi's contribution more impressive.

At a goal every 0.75 league games, Al Ain's Asamoah Gyan clearly has the greatest return, yet the Ghanaian is ably supplied by the UAE's most potent attack. Having Omar Abdulrahman, Alex Brosque and Jires Kembo-Ekoko feeding the supply line makes it easier to score.

Likewise, Grafite, the Al Ahli captain, has a brilliantly creative support cast to help elevate his ratio to a goal every 1.02 games.

Kabi, though, features for the division's fifth-worst team; subtract his 23 goals (inferior only to Gyan and Grafite) and Ajman would be in the thick of a relegation battle.

As it is, the Ivorian striker guided his club to safety, and delivered Ajman's first trophy in 29 years with the winner in the Etisalat Cup final.

A nomadic career should continue this summer. Do not be surprised if he finds a home at one of the league's more celebrated clubs.

Asamoah Gyan, Al Ain

written by Amith Passela

Scoring 53 goals over two seasons is a remarkable feat.

Gyan followed up his 22 goals in 18 games in his debut Pro League season with a record 31 in 22 appearances as he topped the scoring charts for a second year in a row, along with claiming a second title-winner's medal.

His record haul bettered the previous best of 29 set in the 1998/98 season by Al Wahda's Senegalese striker Alboury Lah.

The Ghanian also came out on top in his duel with Al Ahli's Grafite, finishing seven goals ahead of the Brazilian – who claimed at the start of the season that he would top the scoring charts.

Most observers would agree that Al Ain's success is based largely on the teamwork of a talented squad and a well-balanced side.

However, Gyan's ability to convert even half chances into goals has played a huge part in their title defence, as they wrapped up the championship at a canter.

Al Ain netted almost three times as many goals as they conceded and Gyan got nearly half of the 74 tally.

His finishing has been incredible. He can score from difficult angles, from long range and his ability to break the offside trap, coupled with his pace, means he always a threat to the opposition – even on an off day.

Azizbek Haydarov, Al Shabab

written by Ahmed Rizvi

Early in the season, following a disappointing 4-0 loss at home to Al Dhafra in the Etisalat Cup, the then Al Wasl coach Bruno Metsu bemoaned the absence of a leader in his team.

Different Pro League coaches have made similar complaints, except the Al Shabab manager, Marcos Paqueta, for whom Haydarov performs that role admirably.

Given the goal-scoring exploits of Asamoah Gyan and Grafite, the gritty Uzbek midfielder may seem like an odd choice, but Haydarov plays just as big and influential role for his team as those two luminaries do for theirs.

A consummate professional, he works tirelessly in a team which arguably depends more on their foreign players than any of the wother top sides. The 27 year old is linchpin for his country as well as his club, and with Uzbekistan in the mix for a place at the 2014 World Cup, Haydarovoften took to the pitch for Shabab just hours after returning from international duty during qualifiers for Uzbekistan.

He is the heartbeat in Shabab's game – in defence, midfield or attack. He is vocal on the picth, a communicator who regularly talks to his teammates and barks instructions during a game, even though some do not seem to take too kindly to his advice. For his all-round effort and leadership, Haydarov should be the top choice.

Editor's Note: The first ever Etisalat Pro League Awards ceremony will be held Sunday night at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. The awards will honour the standout performers of the 2012/13 season in nine categories: Emirati Player of the Year, International Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Young Player of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, Top Scorer of the Year, Professional Club of the Year, Fantasy Football Manager of the Year, and Fans’ Player of the Year. The first five categories were voted for by media institutions as well as the coaches, captains and team managers of all 14 professional clubs. The ceremony, starting at 6.30pm, will be broadcast live on Abu Dhabi Sports.


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