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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Al Ain reportedly reject loan offer from French club Nice for Omar Abdulrahman

The National understands a deal could still be struck between the UAE club and Nice. 

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

Al Ain have reportedly rejected an offer from Ligue 1 club Nice to take UAE playmaker Omar Abdulrahman on loan.

Pictures emerged on Wednesday of an apparent proposal from the French top-flight side, initially requesting the current Asian player of the year on a temporary contract, but with the view to a permanent move. The letter was dated June 27.

Although reports suggest Al Ain turned down the offer, The National understands that the prospect of having the UAE’s leading footballer feature in the Uefa Champions League means a deal could eventually be struck. Nice finished third in last season’s Ligue 1 to make the qualifying rounds for the 2017/18 tournament. They will contest the first leg of their play-off later this month. It is understood that a Nice official travelled to the Garden City this week to discuss Abdulrahman’s transfer.

Abdulrahman, 25, has long been tipped for a move to Europe, with the Al Ain captain previously attracting interest from a number of leading clubs including Arsenal, Hamburg, Valencia and Benfica. In 2013, he claimed he turned down the opportunity to move to the Portuguese side during that year's winter transfer window.

Abdulrahman signed a new contract in February 2015 to keep him at Al Ain until next year – a deal that was thought to make him the highest-earning Emirati player in UAE football.

However, he has spoken often about a desire to test his talent outside the UAE. No Emirati has plied his trade permanently abroad, but it was felt for some time that Abdulrahman would be the player to break the mould.

He was named Asia’s player of the year last December having been key in helping Al Ain reach the Asian Champions League final. The club, still the only UAE side to be crowned continental champions, failed to emulate their celebrated 2003 team, losing 3-2 on aggregate in November to South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Abdulrahman left the pitch in tears following the second leg at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

He appears to have resolved to go one better this year, though, netting seven goals to lead the Champions League scoring charts. He has also seven assists as Al Ain booked their place in the quarter-finals, where they play Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal across two legs from August 21.

Turkish club Fenerbahce have a long-held interest in Abdulrahman too, and approached Al Ain regarding a possible deal in January. They remain incredibly keen to sign the midfielder, although the fact they cannot offer Uefa Champions League football would make a transfer unlikely.

The National was told that, earlier this year, Al Ain valued Abdulrahman at around €15 million (Dh62.9m). He made his professional debut for the club in 2009 and has gone on to win the UAE top flight three times, the President's Cup twice and a League Cup.

A prominent member of the UAE national team, Abdulrahman was part of the side that won the 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations and finished third in the 2015 Asian Cup.