Crystal Palace player recruitment manager to keep an eye on top Arab talent at World Cup

Crystal Palace player recruitment manager to keep an eye on top Arab talent at World Cup
Omar Yabroudi is heading to Russia to scout players for Crystal Palace. (James Hanna)
Updated 08 June 2018

Crystal Palace player recruitment manager to keep an eye on top Arab talent at World Cup

Crystal Palace player recruitment manager to keep an eye on top Arab talent at World Cup
  • Emirati Omar Yabroudi will 'have a close interest in the Arab teams'
  • He backs more Arab players to succeed in the Premier League

Crystal Palace’s player recruitment manager will be at the World Cup to run the rule over potential signings and said that he will have no hesitation in recommending Arab players to former UAE coach Roy Hodgson.
Omar Yabroudi is part of the transfer committee at the Premier League club and is being dispatched to Russia to assess the credentials of summer targets playing on the biggest stage of all. Yabroudi has three laptops packed with information on players from all corners of the globe, but, born in Sharjah, he knows the Arab market like few others and is expertly placed to extol their virtues to key decision-makers at the London club.
“I have a close interest in the Arab teams because of where my heart lies, but I have to be professional in making recommendations to Crystal Palace,” said Yabroudi. “We have a scouting database where we know every single player in the world. (Palace manager) Roy Hodgson is a very driven, hard working and honest man. Once he has told you what his ideal player looks like, you have no doubt in your mind about what you are looking for. I love his direct style of management — there are no grey areas. He gives us you a profile and characteristics of a player and then we go and find him.”
Every scout is trying to unearth the next Mohamed Salah, but he is not the only Arab plying his trade in the world’s most watched league. Ramadan Sobhi, Ahmed Hegazi and Nordin Amrabat all played in the Premier League last season and Yabroudi feels another wave is due.
“It’s only a matter of time before the Arab world produces more Premier League players,” he said. “Our scouting department is tracking players in the Middle East. We pay attention to every continent. The advantage of having Arab players playing in Europe is that it will act as a catalyst to help grow the game in the Arab world. I think it’s important they come and experience different cultures.”
Yabroudi was on the verge of bringing Syrian striker Omar Al-Somah to England when he was working in the recruitment department at Nottingham Forest, but the move was held up by red tape. Instead, Al-Somah joined Saudi Arabia giants Al-Ahli and has scored 118 goals in just 122 games.
“We are kicking ourselves about that one a bit,” said Yabroudi. “We couldn’t bring him into the country as we were struggling to earn a work permit. He was on trial for Nottingham Forest and scored three goals in two games. He is complete striker, is two footed and is a real talent.”
The big Arab talent, the one who has been talked about for years, is Omar Abdulrahman. The Al-Ain playmaker was on trial at Manchester City in 2012 and has been linked with Arsenal, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, Hamburg and Malaga, but he has so far stayed put in the UAE.
“There is no doubt he could make it in the Premier League because of his technical ability,” Yabroudi said. “This player can play in any of the top six leagues. He can do it. It’s a privilege to have a player of his quality playing in the UAE. We know the player is one of a kind. I recommended him to Dougie Freedman when he was at Bolton. (Freedman is now sporting director at Palace). But Bolton had very difficult circumstances. We weren’t able to make something happen because of the financial situation.”
Even the brilliance of Abdulrahman could not qualify the UAE for the World Cup, but Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt will be in Russia, flying the flag for the Arab world.
“Their chances are slim because it’s a strong competition,” said Yabroudi. “It’s hard to see an Arab team going far, but I’m sure one time with the right infrastructure and coaching in place that we can lift the World Cup, I don’t see why not. The problem is that we lack experience in the latter stages of the competition, so one step at a time is needed.”
Saudi Arabia are at the World Cup for the first time since 2006 and will be seeking to reach the knockout phase for only the second time. Much will hinge on the form of leading scorer Mohammad Al-Sahlawi. He spent three weeks training with Manchester United in April in a bid to get him razor sharp for Group A games against Russia, Uruguay and Egypt.
“Al-Sahlawi will be crucial to them to stand any chance of success,” said Yabroudi. “His experience will be key. Fahad Muwallad also gives hope of bright talent coming through. He’s a gifted young player and is going to provide energy. He’s quick and is very direct. It’s going to be exciting.”