x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pro League Awards: The National's best Emirati players

Along with Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman, Al Ahli's Basheer Saeed and Al Jazira's Khamis Ismail merit consideration for best from the UAE, writes John McAuley, Amith Passela and Ahmed Rizvi.

Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman does so much more for his team than score goals. Pawan Singh / The National
Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman does so much more for his team than score goals. Pawan Singh / The National

Omar Abdulrahman, Al Ain

written by John McAuley

The little magician with the formidable future has undoubtedly been the season's outstanding Emirati. Al Ain's No 10 plays the role perfectly, floating across the pitch, a magnet to the ball, often producing a bit of brilliance to release grateful teammates in attack.

Abdulrahman may have scored only seven times in the Pro League this term, but his impact is much more than that: he is a constant creator of goals for colleagues, integral to his side's intricate possession play who seldom relinquishes the ball unless necessary.

Concerns swirl surrounding his delicate physique – at 21, he has already endured two extensive surgeries to his knee – but the playmaker has still excelled despite specific attention from overeager opponents. A move abroad is mooted, which would no doubt elicit a collective sigh from his rivals.

Perhaps the best compliment is that Abdulrahman has not been only this season's best home-grown player, but its greatest exponent.

Basheer Saeed, Al Ahli

written by Ahmed Rizvi

After the season he has just enjoyed, it would be difficult to imagine anyone other than Omar Abdulrahman winning the honours. But if you were to pick a dark horse for the award, then you could not go wrong with Saeed.

The Al Ahli central defender has been as influential for his side as the moppy-haired Al Ain star and if not for Mahdi Ali's desire to build a team for the future, the 31 year old would have been a part of the Gulf Cup-winning UAE squad as well.

Chirpy and tough-tackling, the 2007 Gulf Cup winner formed a formidable partnership with the Lebanese Yousuf Mohammed, which helped Ahli finish with the league's second-best defensive record behind Al Ain.

Ahli's elder statesman has also clocked more matches this season than in the previous three.

Khamis Ismail, Al Jazira

written by Amith Passela

In his short career, Ismail can already boast several notable achievements. The Al Jazira midfielder, 23, was a member of the UAE team that reached its first appearance at the Olympics, in London last year. He is also an Asian Games silver medallist and winner of a Gulf Cup.

His move from Emirates to Jazira in January 2011 on a five-year deal saw him win a Pro League championship and two President's Cup titles for the Abu Dhabi club, and he has since won a regular place in the senior national team.

Ismail is solid in defence with fine tackling skills, often making vital interceptions at the base of the midfield. He is a tireless athlete with an excellent work ethic.

Add to that the ability to thread a fine through ball, and the future looks bright for the young Emirati.

His influence on the Jazira team has grown this season and, despite the Abu Dhabi team's relatively poor campaign, Ismail has been one of the team's top performers.

Editor's Note: The first ever Etisalat Pro League Awards ceremony will be held Sunday night at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. The awards will honour the standout performers of the 2012/13 season in nine categories: Emirati Player of the Year, International Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Young Player of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, Top Scorer of the Year, Professional Club of the Year, Fantasy Football Manager of the Year, and Fans’ Player of the Year. The first five categories were voted for by media institutions as well as the coaches, captains and team managers of all 14 professional clubs. The ceremony, starting at 6.30pm, will be broadcast live on Abu Dhabi Sports.

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