Omar Abdulrahman's UAE omission could be stroke of genius

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

Omar Abdulrahman's UAE omission could be stroke of genius

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.