The Al Ain coach insists he would encourage his team's most creative player to continue his career outside the UAE. John McAuley reports.
Cosmin Olaroiu says Omar Abdulrahman will not be held back by Al Ain
Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, says the club will not stand in Omar Abdulrahman's way should he decide to join a top European club, claiming his prize asset is so talented he "could play anywhere".
The UAE international's reputation has continued to climb following his contribution in January to his country's Gulf Cup success, and the player revealed last month his performances in Bahrain had prompted an approach from Benfica, a leading Portugal side.
Abdulrahman said he rejected the offer of a one-year loan deal as his priority remains with Al Ain.
He also spoke candidly about last summer's two-week trial at Manchester City. The 21-year-old midfielder reportedly impressed the English Premier League champions to such an extent that he was presented with a four-year contract, yet his failure to secure a work visa thwarted the transfer.
No Emirati has played in a first-team match with a European side.
Abdulrahman's age and technical skills, however, make him the most interesting Emirati footballer yet, to European clubs.
Olaroiu insisted he would encourage his team's most creative player to continue his career outside the UAE, and his words carry import: Al Ain are believed to have Abdulrahman under contract through 2014/15.
"Yes, Omar deserves it," he said.
"He's a fantastic player whose place is abroad, and I hope he's going to do this. I hope he gets what he deserves as he'll provide a good image for UAE football and the country.
"For Omar, money is not a concern. He is proud and wants to show he's one of the best players in any part of the world, not only here. I know him very well and I know what he has inside, what heart he has and how he thinks.
"Al Ain look to win trophies and help these players achieve their dreams. This is Omar's dream so we will not stop him, although it'll be difficult for me as Al Ain coach to let a player like Omar leave."
Olaroiu said Abdulrahman must be managed carefully if he is to fulfil his potential. Such is his artistry on the ball that the slightly built playmaker often is the target of defenders seemingly intent on roughing him up.
Against Al Wasl on Thursday he wore a protective support on his left knee.
Abdulrahman missed the first six months of 2011 after surgery to repair a knee injury, and has played almost without pause since his return, first helping the UAE qualify for last summer's Olympic Games before forming an integral component in their London campaign.
His obligations with Al Ain have been no less demanding, as the Garden City club compete domestically for three trophies and in the Asian Champions League, too.
Understandably, Olaroiu is wary of the strain put on young limbs.
"Omar has great potential and can grow, but he has to train in a different way," he said. "Here we train but think about it: how many games did he play during the Olympics, with the national team, at the Gulf Cup, in the Pro League, the President's Cup? We're not so willing to let a player like Omar rest.
"Omar needs to be trained to increase his power, increase his potential. And if he doesn't have time to train properly, his ability will stay the same in the future."
Olaroiu did not confirm clubs had expressed an interest in Abdulrahman, but reiterated the playmaker could perform at the highest level.
"With the quality he has, he can play with any club," he said. "But it's important how he'll develop at another club, whether in training or if they give him a chance to play; how they trust him.
"Omar is a very sensitive player. When he feels you trust him and he has the confidence he can make a difference in any team. But he knows here that everyone - the team and the management - have faith in him and he has more than football ties with us.
"He feels it and shows it on the pitch."
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