Al-Hilal’s Omar Abdulrahman will ‘light up’ Saudi Pro League says former colleague

Omar Abdulrahman has joined the League champions Al-Hilal on a season-long loan deal costing $17 million. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2018
0

Al-Hilal’s Omar Abdulrahman will ‘light up’ Saudi Pro League says former colleague

  • Abdulrahman joined the League champions Al-Hilal on a season-long loan deal costing $17 million

LONDON: Al-Hilal have signed a “freak” of a player in Omar Abdulrahman, one who will light up the Saudi Pro League this season, according to a former colleague who does wonder though if the time would have been right for the UAE playmaker to transfer his talent to Europe.
Abdulrahman joined the League champions Al-Hilal on a season-long loan deal costing $17 million, the second highest loan fee ever paid for a player. The move means Abdulraham will play in Riyadh, the city of his birth, and show he is comfortable doing it outside the comfort zone of Al-Ain, where he has spent the past 10 years. He is in line to make his debut in the Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad in London on Saturday.
“The kid is a freak, he is an unbelievable talent,” said Liam Weeks, the English performance analyst who worked with the 26-year-old at Al-Ain. “His passing ability, his vision, his execution is world class. He’s got the flair, he can see a picture and bring others into the game that no other players sees.”
Abdulraham is the most talented player in the Middle East and was named the Asian Player of the Year in 2016. He has been coveted by clubs in England, France and Germany, but he has always resisted and stayed put in his adopted home of Al-Ain. Weeks feels he has the ability to shine in one of the top leagues and should have used this opportunity to export his talent.
“I’m really disappointed he’s not gone to Europe,” Weeks said. “I thought it was a perfect opportunity to go to Europe and test himself against the very best, whether in Spain, in Holland, in Germany or in the UK, a better league, a more physical league to see if he can do it. When I go home (to England) people know who Abdulrahman is. They’ve seen videos of him and he’s an iconic because of his hair and his style. People often say, ‘How is the kid with the fuzzy hair doing?’ They mean Omar. He has a lot of fans around the world.”
There have been claims that Abdulrahman enjoys being a big fish in a small pond and that he is so well financially rewarded by Al-Ain that he saw little point moving elsewhere.
“He has a lot that he owes the UAE, Al-Ain and Sheikh Hazza (bin Zayed),” said Weeks. “Sheikh Hazza brought him to the UAE from Yemen, brought his entire family over and gave them citizenship. He’s got two brothers who play for Al-Ain and that maybe has something to do with why he has stayed.”
Abdulrahman, 26, was out of contract this summer and although he signed a new deal at Al-Ain, Weeks feels the fact he was banned for breaking a curfew in the Gulf Cup while on UAE duty may have played a part in his decision to end, albeit temporarily, his unbroken stint in the UAE Pro League and try his luck in the Saudi Pro League.
“He’s got a bit of bad press in the UAE after the Gulf Cup, so maybe that was part of the decision,” said Weeks.
Al-Ain’s loss is certainly Al-Hilal’s gain and Weeks’ mouth waters of the prospect of Abdulrahman lining up in a side already packed with talent.
“He will do very well there,” Weeks said. “Al-Hilal are the powerhouses in Saudi football. They have (Omar) Khribin, (Carlos) Eduardo and their runs with Abdulrahman providing the ammunition is going to be an exciting prospect.”
Weeks worked closely with Abdulrahman at Al-Ain, passing on key stats about his performances in training and in games and found him a very grounded individual.
“He’s a very down-to-earth person,” Weeks said. “He’s very focussed on his football, very polite, he looks after himself. He’ll always greet you with a warm welcome.”
While his talent is not in question, Weeks is warning supporters not to expect too much, too soon from the left-footed magician as he has been struggling with injury.
“I think fitness and injury wise there are concerns,” said Weeks. “His last game was the beginning of May. He’s not been training properly with Al-Ain or the national team and has had three months of work with just a fitness instructor in the gym. Hopefully they don’t rush him into things and give him a pre-season before he starts.”


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 19 February 2019
0

Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”