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Ahmed Khalil – Al-Ahli & UAE

March 7, 2011

Forget for a moment that Ahmed Khalil is playing in the UAE League, which doesn’t include defences of the quality of any of the major European leagues. Indeed possibly not of many of the minor European leagues. Forget that his only goals at international level have come against Moldova, Malaysia and Kuwait.

Remember instead that he’s a mere 19 years old, and made his international debut at the age of 16 whilst simultaneously playing for the U-23’s & U-20’s (who he’d been playing for since he was 15 years old). Remember that he’s won 10 individual awards including U-17 & U-23 Gulf Nations Top Scorer, AFC U-19 Championship Top Scorer & Player of the Tournament, Asian Young Footballer of the Year & 3 Most Promising Arab Player awards. He’s also won team medals in the U-17 & U-23 Gulf Nations Cup, U-23 Gulf Nations Cup (Gold) & Asian Games (Silver). Consider that in 73 club games he has scored 31 goals and performed 25 assists, including 4 games in his debut season as a 15 year old where he scored 4 goals and 2 assists. Remember again that he’s only 19 years of age.

Watching the various highlight reels of his performances it’s obvious to see that this is a young man playing at a level well below his capabilities, which his stats would appear to confirm. He plays with the confidence and assurance of a seasoned pro, but with the freedom and adventure that youth allows. He’s been described as the Emirati Drogba, but with limited viewing, this appears to be more down to a facial resemblance than his playing style. He’s only 5ft 10ins tall and more likely to use pace and skill to beat his marker than height, power and athleticism. The comparison to Samuel Eto’o made by others therefore seems far more suitable.

Unfortunately Khalil may remain an enigma to European football fans. Despite an apparent attempt by prospective Portsmouth owner Sulaiman Al Fahim to bring his compatriot to the English club in 2009, and a trial at Chelsea, there have been no concrete attempts to lure the forward from is Dubai club Al-Ahli. His raw skills deserve a bigger stage, but doubts over his decision making and physical strength are possibly the reasons European scouts are remaining cautious. Still being a teenager, he has time on his hands and is currently managed by former Leeds manager David O’Leary who has a decent track record of developing young players.

There isn’t a long list of Emirati footballers for Khalil to follow in the footsteps of; in fact players from the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East in general haven’t made a huge splash in European football. The riches of Dubai and Qatar mean that European players are more likely to move in the opposite direction, albeit in the twilight of their careers, such as Khalil’s current club captain, World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro.

Rather than get chewed up and spat out by the instant results culture that rules the Premier League, Primera Division and Serie A. It may be far more beneficial for Khalil to either continue learning his trade at Al-Ahli, or make a more modest move to a club in France, Portugal or one of the lower profile European leagues. Didier Drogba himself made the move to Le Mans as a 20 year old, playing 3 seasons in the 2nd tier of French football. His first taste of the big time didn’t come until his one and only season in Marseille at the age of 25.

Samuel Eto’o, despite moving from Cameroon to Real Madrid as a 15 year old, only played 56 minutes for Los Merengues. He spent 3 seasons on loan at Leganes, Espanyol and Mallorca, before moving to the island team permanently. By the time Eto’o had left Palma for Barcelona in 2004 at the age of 23, he was Mallorca’s all-time domestic top scorer and worth £24m. Both Drogba and Eto’o would go on to become two of the most potent goalscorers in world football.

Khalil has made a promising start to his footballing career and has a long way to go to fulfil his potential. But if he achieves half as much as the two players he’s being compared to, he could be the first Emirati footballer to become a household name.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 10, 2013 4:01 am

    Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, let alone the content!. Thanks For Your article about Ahmed Khalil & .

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