Dubai: Omar Abdul Rahman’s much speculated season-long loan from Al Ain to Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal was completed on Monday at a regional record fee of €14 million (Dh59.5 million).
The 26-year-old midfielder finalised the move after first putting pen to paper in a three-year contract extension with Al Ain. His subsequent loan to Al Hilal was a condition of that renewal.
Haggling over terms had put the transfer in doubt and allowed some talk of Al Hilal’s city rivals Al Nassr moving in on the deal, but ultimately Omar joined the blue half of Riyadh and is said to have snubbed a host of European offers in the process.
This is a homecoming of sorts for the Saudi-born player of Yemeni descent as Abdul Rahman had in fact played for Al Hilal at youth level before joining Al Ain in 2006 after his family was granted UAE citizenship.
He went on to win four Arabian Gulf League titles with Al Ain, and was named the AGL’s best Emirati four times, before taking Asian Player of the Year in 2016.
A newly introduced salary cap in the AGL seems to be the reason why clubs might want to cut their outgoings, prompting players like Omar to seek pastures new.
Al Ain chairman Ghanim Al Hajeri, tweeted: “To underestimate the value of those who have given so much and then impose restrictions only because they have dreams that they still wish to achieve far from our circle is selfish.”
As well as more money, the move will give Omar a much-needed change of scene to rediscover his form and test himself against tougher opponents ahead of next January’s Asian Cup in the UAE.
It comes after the 2013 Gulf Cup winner, who burst onto the scene in the 2012 Olympics and went on to finish third with the UAE at the 2015 Asian Cup, was largely blamed for missing two penalties in January’s Gulf Cup final defeat to Oman.
One downside for the player is that he will now miss Al Ain’s Fifa Club World Cup run out in Abu Dhabi this December where the UAE champions will host six other continental giants, including Real Madrid, in a bid to be crowned world champions.
This isn’t the first loan move between clubs in the region, but it is the biggest. UAE striker Esmail Matar also spent a brief period on loan with Qatar’s Al Sadd in 2009, while Saudis Yassir Al Qahtani and Nasser Al Shamrani, both went on loan to Al Ain from Al Hilal in 2011/12 and 2017 respectively.
Al Hilal’s current president Sami Al Jaber also managed Abu Dhabi club Al Wahda for a brief period in 2015.