x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Amer Abdulrahman mature and intelligent to handle England move

The last 12 months have seen Amer Abdulrahman, the UAE and Baniyas No 5, blossom into the player that his talent always hinted at.

Baniyas' Amer Abdulrahman has done well more so for the national team. Mike Young / The National
Baniyas' Amer Abdulrahman has done well more so for the national team. Mike Young / The National

It was the surname we were all expecting. But not the player.

It seems increasingly possible that it will be Baniyas's Amer Abdulrahman, not the more accomplished man sharing his last name, Al Ain's Omar, that will be taking the plunge into the world of European football.

While most expected Omar, who had a trial at Manchester City last year, to be the first Emirati to make a big move abroad, those familiar with Baniyas' talented midfielder will not be surprised at this development.

Omar may have the undoubted skill, vision and flamboyance, and indeed represents the complete package; but you will do well to find a more mature and intelligent footballer than Amer.

The last 12 months have seen the UAE and Baniyas No 5 blossom into the player that his talent always hinted at.

Abdulrahman was one of the standout players at the 2009 Fifa Under 20 World Cup in Egypt, when his performances helped coach Mahdi Ali's youngsters into the quarter-finals and led World Soccer magazine to call him the "Zidane of the UAE".

Such words may not sit comfortably with the modest midfielder, but he has hardly been burdened by the accolade and has gone from strength to strength since then.

Last season, he led Baniyas to a very respectable fourth-place finish in the Pro League, but it's for the UAE where he has really made a name for himself, so to speak, becoming as much a fixture in Mahdi Ali's senior side.

Tellingly, it was in the north of England, just over 30km from Blackburn, that football fans from around there had their first glimpse of him.

A year ago this week, Abdulrahman walked out at Old Trafford in Manchester for the UAE's opening London Olympic fixture against Uruguay, and produced a composed performance against vastly more experienced, and superior, opponents than he had ever faced before.

Time and again, he was at the centre of the action; head up, spraying the ball around the pitch with complete authority. In the first half, Uruguay, with the likes of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Gaston Ramirez in their ranks, were left chasing shadows.

Though the UAE lost, it was Abdulrahman's efforts that stayed in the memory flying into tackles and covering for his teammates as the UAE slowly began to be pushed back.

More than anyone else, Abdulrahman tried to keep possession; no panic, no wild hoofs, just simple passes.

Though the UAE did not qualify for the knockout stages of the Games, the UAE Football Association had seen enough to move Mahdi Ali, the team's coach, up to the national team role, and he was taking his young stars with him.

Abdulrahman was part of the team that won the Gulf Cup in Bahrain in January, and any doubts as to just how important the Baniyas man was to the national team were banished in spectacular style in the UAE's last competitive match, March's 2-1 win over Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup qualifier in Abu Dhabi.

The absence of Omar Abdulrahman was barely noticed, with Amer giving a complete performance as the UAE came back from a goal down to win in a mirror image of the Uruguay match at Old Trafford.

In the first half, as the UAE struggled with Uzbekistan's pressing game, Abdulrahman kept his head, and possession, magnificently, rallying those around him until slowly the home team played themselves into the game.

In the second half, Abdulrahman set up both UAE goals for Khalil and Ali Mabkhout with two passes of such precision that Blackburn's strikers will be licking their lips at the prospect of having him on board should the trial prove successful.

"He is as good as any other with good skills and talent, and I am very happy for him," Mahdi Ali said after the match.

For a coach who preaches the importance of the group ethic over any individual, that is good as it gets.

Just how good that is, Blackburn fans, and perhaps the rest of the Championship, could soon find out.

akhaled@thenational.ae

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