x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Transfer talk: Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman turns heads at Arsenal

Invitation to join London club on trial, but with new campaign looming and pre-season underway, acceptance looks unlikely, writes John McAuley.

Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman.
Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman.
AL AIN // Omar Abdulrahman has been invited to train with a prominent English Premier League club for the second time in 12 months, however, the Emirati seems set to remain with Al Ain for another season.
The UAE champions have confirmed they received an offer from Arsenal to take the midfielder on trial.
Rashid bin Mubarak Al Hajri, the Al Ain vice chairman, said the club has also been approached by other Europeans teams about the midfielder, chiefly those based in Spain.
Valencia, the established Primera Liga side, have long been suggested as a possible destination.
Al Hajri said the final decision, though, would be Abdulrahman's, reiterating the club's stance that they will support whatever the player deems is the best option for his career.
Abdulrahman has been linked with a move away from Al Ain for the past year, especially after he spent two weeks last August on trial at Manchester City, then the Premier League's champions.
The playmaker, whose performances for the UAE national team at the London Olympics convinced City to assess him, is said to have impressed during his time there to such an extent that the club proposed a permanent contract. However, the deal allegedly collapsed because of problems securing a work permit.
Now Arsenal have expressed an interest, with the London club contacting Al Ain last week to attempt to arrange a trial.
While the Garden City side will not stand in Abdulrahman's way should he wish to leave, the timing of the approach makes it highly unlikely the player will accept Arsenal's offer.
Al Ain are currently in the middle of their pre-season preparations, and last night faced Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium to conclude a four-team friendly tournament. On Sunday, they travel to Austria for a two-week training camp.
The omission of Abdulrahman would significantly disrupt plans for, firstly, the Super Cup clash with Al Ahli on August 30, and then the new Arabian Gulf League season. Al Ain look to seal a third successive UAE title.
"Omar is an Al Ain player, it is as simple as that," said a club official. "We are happy to have him here and we expect him to make a considerable contribution in our push next season for the Arabian Gulf League title and the Asian Champions League."
Whether Arsenal follow up their original query remains to be seen. Attempts to get a response from Arsenal, the three-time Premier League winners, were unsuccessful.
Abdulrahman's reputation outside the UAE continues to climb, with the midfielder last week voted by the international website goal.com as the 39th-best player in the world. The list ranked the Al Ain star above established European footballers such as Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard.
Although Arsenal are the only club publicly credited with making an offer this summer, Al Ain said last month that "a number of requests for transfer" had been reviewed and discussed by their management.
In January, Abdulrahman reportedly rejected the opportunity to sign with Portugal's Benfica on a season-long loan, instead preferring to stay to help Al Ain's quest for success both domestically and on the continent.
Arsenal's bid to evaluate the player is a significant step in Abdulrahman becoming the first Emirati to permanently ply his trade outside the UAE, although the trial could also have been simply to strengthen already-strong business ties between the two countries.
Last November, Arsenal agreed a new sponsorship deal with Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, said to be worth £150 million (Dh844m).
jmcauley@thenational.ae
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