x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

'Phenomenal' salaries force clubs to look elsewhere says Reading manager

Arabian Gulf footballers have often struggled to attract the attention of scouts in Europe. Brian McDermott, Reading's former scout turned manager, believes the crux of the problem is the 'phenomenal' salaries on offer.

Reading have been training at Al Wasl Club in Dubai during their break. Satish Kumar / The National
Reading have been training at Al Wasl Club in Dubai during their break. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // The route from an Arabian Gulf domestic league to the prestige of European football has rarely been a well-paved path as the game in the Middle East struggles to attract the attention of scouts from the highest profile clubs.

Whether it is club owners intent on keeping their best home-grown talent or the players showing loyalty to a nation that has naturalised them, the few players that do catch the eye face numerous hurdles in their quest to make a continental move.

Brian McDermott joined Reading as their chief scout in 2000 before working his way through the hierarchy to lead the club to the English Premier League last year. He said Reading do not have a scout based in the Middle East and nor do they feel it essential. Players here cost too much money, appears to be the common perception.

"As I understand it, the money out here is phenomenal," McDermott said. "If you have a player being paid tax-free, then you are going to have pay a lot of money to get them.

"And I would say if you ever do find a player who desperately wants to come to Europe and is good enough then you should take him, because he won't be coming for the money."

McDermott appears to be aware of Omar Abdulrahman, Al Ain's precocious midfielder. Born in Saudi Arabia to Yemeni parents, the 21 year old was granted Emirati citizenship in 2008 when he joined Al Ain and after impressing in both the Pro League and last summer's Olympic Games in London, he was invited for a trial with Manchester City.

It is understood Abdulrahman turned down the chance to move to England out of loyalty to his club and country, but McDermott has heard a different tale.

"I know there was a player who was on trial at Manchester City recently, but he didn't want to go there because they couldn't afford him," he said. "And that's Man City! I just can't believe that's true."

A leaked report by the Asian Football Confederation in 2009 showed the UAE had the highest average player salary in the continent, with Emirates-based players earning a median of US$414,000 (Dh1.5m) per year or $8,000 (Dh29,000) per week. The higher profile players would earn substantially more.

"It is what it is here," McDermott said. "There are some big clubs here and the people here love football, but the money is phenomenal."

McDermott said another reason why players based in the Middle East might struggle to secure a transfer is the lack of organisation at administration level.

"The hardest thing is to find the agent," he said. "One guy claims to be representing a player; then someone else comes along and says they are representing him.

"Everyone wants a piece of it. It's just a complete nightmare. You find a very good player, but you don't know how to get to him. It's bizarre.

"My view is every player should have one agent that looks after them and it should be put out there on a register. It's very simple, but it's not done and I don't understand why not. If you are representing your country or you have a football association, then I don't see why it can't be implemented."