Omar Abdul Rahman on crutches. Image Credit: Courtesy: Abdul Rahman Twitter

Dubai: UAE midfielder Omar Abdul Rahman flew to Barcelona on Wednesday for surgery on his right knee after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Saturday’s Riyadh derby between Al Hilal and Al Shabab.

Recovery time for such an injury can take up to six months, all but denying the UAE of their star player ahead of their Asian Cup hosting from January 5 to February 1, where they play India, Bahrain and Thailand in Group A.

Al Hilal confirmed the tear in a tweet following Tuesday’s scan, which read: “Following medical tests carried out on Al Hilal’s UAE player Omar Abdul Rahman, he has been diagnosed with an ACL tear, and the operation appointment will be determined later.”

Turki Al Shaikh, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority, tweeted: “I have directed the specialists to coordinate with the management of the Crescent to treat Amoory urgently in the best places in the world, God heal him and God willing he returns soon.”

Abdul Rahman replied: “I thank Mr. Turki Al Shaikh, Chairman of the Saudi Sports Authority, for his interest and generous guidance in treating me in the best hospitals. And thank God for every situation.”

Omar played a key role in his country’s progress over the past six years, qualifying for the Olympics in 2012, winning the Gulf Cup in 2013 and finishing third at the last Asian Cup in 2015. He also won Asian Player of the Year in 2016 after guiding then club side Al Ain to the Asian Champions League final.

It now remains to be seen how the UAE will fare without their talisman in the Asian Cup, as even before his injury they were decidedly under par heading into the tournament with just one win in the last eight matches, heaping pressure on under fire Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni.

The injury rounds off a difficult year for Abdul Rahman with a contentious move from Al Ain to Al Hilal over the summer being aggravated in a tell-all interview with Dubai Sports Channel, for which he later had to apologise earlier this month.

All this followed January’s Gulf Cup final defeat to Oman in Kuwait where he missed two penalties, one to win the game at the end of normal time, and another in the shoot-out.

It was later alleged that he broke a curfew to leave the team hotel the night before the final with fellow UAE player Ali Mabkhout, which he denies. Both were suspended for the alleged transgression and made an example of by Zaccheroni, being left out of the King’s Cup in Thailand in March.

Omar’s injury also comes just days after Al Wahda’s UAE Under-23 striker Ahmad Al Akbari was flown to Germany for surgery after fracturing his back in a car crash last Thursday. Al Akbari may not have been in contention for a slot in Zaccheroni’s Asian Cup squad but he was definitely touted as a hot prospect for the future before a tyre blow out left him in intensive care.