The UAE may have not qualified for the Fifa World Cup, but there are plenty of connections to football in the country. We look at those in action in Russia who have played or managed in the Emirates, after the final squad lists were announced on Monday.
The Brazil manager had two stints in the UAE, first in charge of Al Ain and then Al Wahda. Both were incredibly brief, with his time in the Garden City spanning five months in 2007 and his stay in Abu Dhabi even less - 50 days in 2010. Tite left Wahda to go to Corinthians, whom he guided eventually to the Copa Libertadores title. It paved the way for his appointment at Brazil, where he is hugely popular.
Hector Cuper (Egypt)
The Egypt manager had led a much-travelled career that includes a four-month stint with Al Wasl from November 2013. Appointed amid much fanfare, the Argentine struggled to lift the Dubai club following Laurent Banide’s poor start to the season, with Wasl winning four of 16 matches before he was dismissed. After 12 months out of the game, Cuper took charge of Egypt in March 2015, leading them to a first World Cup in 28 years.
Zlatko Dalic (Croatia)
The Croatia manager enjoys a real affinity with the UAE having spent three largely successful years at Al Ain from 2014. During that time, he won the Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup, while also taking the club to the brink of a second Asian Champions League crown in 2016, only to lose in the final. Dalic left three months later, before answering an 11th-hour call to manage native Croatia towards the end of World Cup qualification.
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Marcus Berg (Sweden)
The Al Ain striker heads to Russia in fine fettle following a superb debut season in the Emirates. Berg scored 36 goals in 36 appearances, including 25 in 21 matches in the Arabian Gulf League to shoot Al Ain to the title and secure the Golden Boot. His goal in the President’s Cup final ensured his side clinched a historic double. Made Sweden debut in 2008, and struck eight times for Sweden in 2018 World Cup qualification.
Mbark Boussoufa (Morocco)
The experienced Moroccan is well known in the UAE having spent the past two seasons at Al Jazira. An accomplished midfielder, his impact in Abu Dhabi was almost immediate, with Boussoufa playing an integral role in the club’s march to the 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League title. Scored a goal in December to put Jazira 2-0 up against Real Madrid in the Fifa Club World Cup only for it to be ruled out by VAR. Has played for Morocco since 2006.
Manuel Lanzini (Argentina)
Now an established Premier League star, the Argentine arrived in England following two seasons contracted to Al Jazira. The Abu Dhabi club pipped several prominent European sides to Lanzini’s signature in August 2014, where he excelled initially before fading. Spent his second season on loan at West Ham United, making permanent the deal in March 2016. An exciting midfielder known for his dribbling ability and work-rate, he debuted for Argentina 12 months ago.
Mark Milligan (Australia)
The defensive midfielder represented Baniyas for two seasons from 2015. His time in Abu Dhabi was difficult, with the club relegated from the Arabian Gulf League at the conclusion of the 2016/17 campaign. Milligan returned to Melbourne Victory last July, before moving to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli at the beginning of this year. With 67 caps, he was part of the Australia team who won the 2015 Asian Cup. He is appearing in his fourth World Cup.
Jefferson Farfan (Peru)
The Peruvian winger joined Al Jazira from Germany’s Schalke in 2015, but injury restricted him to 11 appearances in his first season. Was initially expected to stay for the following campaign, only to be replaced in October 2016. A regular for his national team since debuting in 2003, Farfan scored in the second leg of the play-off against New Zealand last November to book Peru’s place in Russia. They were the last of the 32 countries to do so.
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A firm fan favourite when joining Al Wasl in 2012, the Egypt winger impressed during his first few months and looked set to star. Yet his relationship with his employers soured when he failed to report back that January for the resumption of the 2012/13 campaign. Shikabala has a chequered history with the Egypt national team, too, but the Zamalek attacking midfielder, now on loan at Saudi’s Al Raed, returned to the side in October following a three-year absence.
Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal)
The mercurial Portuguese proved only a fleeting success during a six-month stay at Al Ahli in 2013. Formerly of Porto, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea, Quaresma signed an 18-month contract, but soon returned to his homeland. He is currently back at Besiktas in Turkey, becoming a key component in their success. With 75 caps for Portugal, he replaced the injured Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2016 European Championship final to help his country land their first major international title.
Moussa Sow (Senegal)
Still the Arabian Gulf League’s most expensive import, the Senegal forward never really settled in Dubai. Arriving from Fenerbahce in 2015 for a fee worth up to €17 million (Dh73m), Sow’s late-season bloom fired the club to the Arabian Gulf League crown. However, he returned to Fenerbache on loan, then rejoined the newly merged Shabab Al Ahli Dubai before heading back out on loan, this time to Bursaspor. A regular for Senegal, Sow has been capped almost 50 times.