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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Al Ain and UAE star Omar Abdulrahman 'not surprised' to be on Asian player of the year shortlist

Emirati playmaker is the reigning holder of the award, but he faces stiff competition this year from Syrian striker Khribin and Chinese defender Lu Wei.

Omar Abdulrahman, right, scored seven goals and created six assists during Al Ain's Asian Champions League campaign. Courtesy Arabian Gulf League
Omar Abdulrahman, right, scored seven goals and created six assists during Al Ain's Asian Champions League campaign. Courtesy Arabian Gulf League

Reigning Asian player of the year Omar Abdulrahman says he deserves to be in the running to retain his crown, with the 2017 winner announced in Bangkok on Wednesday.

The UAE and Al Ain playmaker, 26, has been named on a three-man shortlist alongside Syria’s Omar Khribin and China’s Lu Wei. Khribin, who represents Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, is the favourite for the award having enjoyed a fine 12 months for both club and country.

On Saturday, Hilal lost the Asian Champions League final to Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds, although Khribin finished the competition’s top scorer with 10 goals. Meanwhile, last month, the forward helped Syria come within a play-off of appearing at a first World Cup.

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In contrast, Abdulrahman’s year has not been as successful, with the UAE finishing fourth in their group to make Russia and Al Ain, last year’s runners-up in the Champions League, exiting the competition at the quarter-final stage.

However, Abdulrahman was joint-top scorer heading into the last eight, having found the net seven times. He had also registered six assists, while he was named man of the match four times.

Asked in Bangkok on Tuesday if he was shocked by his inclusion, the Al Ain captain said: “I was not surprised, of course, because if you look at all the numbers with the national team and with Al Ain, these will explain why I’m sitting here this year.

“We have three players who deserve to be here and win the award and I wish all the best to my fellow nominees.”

Twelve months ago, Abdulrahman became the second successive Emirati to be crowned Asia’s best player after compatriot Ahmed Khalil took the trophy in 2015 - the first from the country to do so. Abdulrahman finished second in the voting.

“I’m honoured to be here for the third year in a row,” Abdulrahman said on Tuesday. “My ambitions are limitless. I want to be nominated every year and I want to get achievements with both my club and my national team.”

Both Abdulrahman and Khribin were quizzed on why players from West Asia very rarely make the move to Europe, with the former replying: “In East Asia, they have the experience, while we do not have previously a player who has played in Europe and performed well to be the role model of both the players and the clubs. And of course, marketing has an effect on that.”

Khribin said: “We gave good performances and this is why we’re nominated for the AFC award. For sure, there is a marketing problem. Omar Abdulrahman and other players deserve to play not only in Europe, but with the best clubs in Europe. Personally, I’m happy to play with my current club.”

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