Omar Abdulrahman's UAE omission could be stroke of genius

Omar Abdulrahman has been dropped by the UAE. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Omar Abdulrahman's UAE omission could be stroke of genius

LONDON: Omar Abdulrahman produced one of his best displays of the season on Sunday with two goals for Al-Ain in a 3-2 win at Al-Jazira — a performance that came shortly after the star was dropped by the national team.
The UAE are heading to the King’s Cup in Thailand for their opening games against Slovakia and Gabon, but Abdulrahman will not be there.
In January, Abdulrahman and striker Ali Mabkhout were hit with four-match domestic bans for breaking a team curfew the day before the UAE met Oman in the final of the Gulf Cup. UAE lost and Abdulrahman missed twice from the spot.
The ban did not extend to the national team, but Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni refused to select the two stars. It is a risky strategy, but it might just be the shot in the arm that Abdulrahman needs.
The 26-year-old playmaker should be at the peak of his career, but, instead, appears to be on the edge of stagnation.
Abdulrahman has been regarded as one of the best players in Asia for several years. There was the trial with Manchester City in 2013 and links with Arsenal and Nice. Then came a starring role at the 2015 Asian Cup, eight MVP awards on the way to the 2016 Asian Champions League final with Al-Ain, and the AFC Player of the Year award.
Talk about Abdulrahman’s next destination reached a climax, but instead of making the expected move, he has stayed in the UAE. His form has failed to reach the same heights since that decision. The Gulf Cup was a disappointment for both player and country as was qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
Al-Ain’s Croatian coach Zoran Mamic expressed his frustration with his star player in a 2018 Champions League play-off win against Malkiya of Bahrain in January. “‘Amoory’ is a very important player, but he did not make a good match,” Mamic said. “He made mistakes in many passes, wasted a lot of opportunities. Not good for Asian football.”
Abdulrahman was named man of the match by the AFC then, an example of how reputation and past exploits allowed him to get away with under-performance.
There is no doubt that Abdulrahman is still a major talent and force, but his name is rarely linked with the big European clubs these days. Perhaps there is a realization that the UAE star will not going to be tempted out of his well-paid comfort zone.
Many believe he should do his utmost to go to a top European league and blaze a trail for others. Alternatively, he could stay and try to return to former heights. Staying and failing to perform at his best is the worst outcome.
Depriving the player of something that he may well have taken for granted — a starring role for his country — could be a masterstroke from Zaccheroni.
Abdulrahman’s performance at Al-Jazira is encouraging. A few more of those and the national team will welcome him back with open arms.
 


Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

Updated 23 April 2018
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Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

  • Young Scottish star was very impressive during Liverpool's 5-1 aggregate destruction of Man City in last-eight clash.
  • Robertson refuses to take Roma lightly after their shock victory over Barcelona in the last round.

LIVERPOOL: With a desire stoked in the stands of Parkhead, Andrew Robertson is now fired up to fulfil a childhood dream.
While following the fortunes of Celtic, the defender’s first Champions League final memory was when Zinedine Zidane volleyed Real Madrid to success in 2002 as the contest was staged in Robertson’s home city of Glasgow. He was just eight years old.
While Robertson was deemed too small to play for his boyhood idols, released at 15 with a future uncertain, he has grown to prove his worth on Europe’s biggest club stage with Liverpool.
Now, with a semifinal encounter against AS Roma after beating Premier League champions Manchester City in the last eight, he wants to emulate those Reds heroes who lifted the trophy five times before.
“I was a big Celtic fan growing up and my heroes were Henrik Larsson and Co,” Robertson told Arab News ahead of tonight’s first-leg clash 
at Anfield.
“But these heroes who have won the European Cup and Champions League for Liverpool, you have to look up to them — and we want to emulate them and hopefully get a winner’s medal too.
“The club’s won it five times and the history of the club has always been this, the Champions League, where the fans create a special atmosphere and the club challenges for the trophy. It would be unbelievable to be a part of that history.
“This is the highlight for me so far and an incredible feeling, but it just makes you hungry for more. I don’t want it to end.
“As a kid, you sit back and watch how great it would be to play in this competition, let alone in the final.
“I always used to go to Celtic and we didn’t progress very far in the Champions League, but the occasions at Parkhead were always unbelievable.
“The fans at Celtic are incredible, world renowned, but Anfield was unbelievable against Man City and we have another chance for them to create that same atmosphere and hopefully we can put in another great performance.”
Having beaten Pep Guardiola’s City so convincingly, 5-1 over two gripping games, Liverpool will start favorites against Roma.
That is despite the Italians upsetting Barcelona in the previous round with an epic 3-0 win in the second leg after a 4-1 loss at the Nou Camp.
But Robertson will take nothing for granted against a Roma side who last reached the final in 1984 where they were beaten by Liverpool in a penalty shootout at their Stadio Olimpico home.
“Barca are an unbelievable team,” added the Scotland left-back, 24. “But let’s not kid ourselves. For Roma to score three goals against Barcelona, that’s special.
“They’ve been unbelievable this season too in the Champions League and deserve to be in the semifinals. It will definitely not be an easy game.
“But once you get to the semis, the fear of who you are playing has gone because you know how good the teams are.
“It’s like you look forward to the possibility of playing in the final, that’s what drives you forward. We will have fire in our bellies because we are so close to getting there.”
Jurgen Klopp’s men will no doubt be looking to Mohamed Salah to conjure more magic against the club he left in the summer for £36.9 million ($51.5 million).
But Robertson insisted Liverpool are no one-man team and the Egyptian, crowned PFA Player of the Year on Sunday night after scoring 41 goals in an unforgettable campaign, epitomizes a team united and ambitious in their quest for glory.
“He’s just unbelievable,” said Robertson of the frontman.
“In the first half (of the second leg) against Man City we struggled to get him in the game and he wasn’t quite at it. But the second half he was different class and pops up with a goal to help us win it. That’s what he does.
“His goals have been incredible and long may that continue. He’s a great guy, so humble, and for someone who has done so much this season he’s so down to Earth.
“That’s credit to our squad because we don’t let anyone get ahead of themselves.
“Mo is no different, he’s a lovely person and stands for what we are as a team.”

 

HEART OF GOLD

Five years ago Andrew Robertson was playing in the fourth tier of Scottish football with Queen’s Park and earning extra money by selling concert tickets in the corporate offices at Hampden Park.
Last summer he suffered relegation from the Premier League with Hull City before Liverpool signed him for £10 million ($13.9 million).
In a career fraught with setbacks and hardships, he has been grateful, supporting foodbanks that help those in need.
“It’s all about giving something back to the less fortunate,” said Robertson.
“I’m in a fortunate position where I do a job I love and get paid well and it’s nice to give something back, especially in my hometown. I’ll always do that.
“It’s been a great journey for me in my career, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. But I don’t forget where I came from. Maybe it is rare, but a lot more people are doing it now and I hope even more will.”