UAE forward Ahmad Khalil
UAE forward Ahmad Khalil (left) has been a mainstay for country and club Shabab Al Ahli Dubai. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: UAE national team striker Ahmad Khalil is going nowhere as he reiterated his desire to continue raising the bar with Arabian Gulf League (AGL) runners-up Shabab Al Ahli Dubai for next season.

Named Asian Footballer of the Year in 2015, Khalil was brilliant during the season as Shabab Ahli staged a late rally before finishing in second spot after champions Sharjah Club in the 2018-19 AGL that concluded last week.

Khalil was involved in 19 of the 25 league matches, during which he found the net on eight occasions as Shabab Ahli finished three points behind Sharjah.

“We have a lot of reasons to be happy about last season,” Khalil told Gulf News after the season-ending AGL Awards held on Friday.

“We could have done better, and even won the title, if we had done the right things at the beginning of the season. We really didn’t take off, but I think we did well in the second part of the league with a terrific record to match.”

The seven-time league champions, who last success came at the end of the 2015-16 season, had a horrific start to the year registering four losses in the first half of the competition. But with Rodolfo Arruabarenna taking over as coach, Shabab Ahli did much better losing just twice to keep Sharjah under pressure until the end.

“I think we found our touch later in the season. Now it is our responsibility to carry forward this momentum into the next year. We were down and out of reckoning at one stage after losing to Al Jazira, Sharjah, Al Ain and Bani Yas, but then our new coach [Arruabarenna] came along and we started believing that we could challenge for the title,” Khalil said.

“We will be in the Asian Champions League again and we need to work even harder and raise our standard. Even though we didn’t have a good start, the positive was that we fought back strongly later in the year. Players started believing they could go all the way, and we all decided as a team to put ourselves together till the end. I am convinced we can get better as a team next season.”