Al-Hilal still hopeful Omar Abdulrahman will play for the club again despite ACL injury
RIYADH: Al-Hilal have refused to rule out extending Omar Abdulrahman’s loan deal from Al-Ain after their star summer signing was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Al-Hilal defeated Al-Qadisiya 2-0 on Friday to make it seven wins out of seven in the Saudi Pro League. But that doubtless did little to make it any easier for the Riyadh giants to face up to the prospect of never fielding the UAE playmaker ever again — the loan deal set for only one year.
Abdulrahman, one of the biggest names in Asian football, tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on Oct. 20 in a 1-0 win over Al-Shabab in a major blow to both club and country.
With Al-Hilal paying a reported $17 million to Al-Ain for 12 months of the player’s services — the second most expensive loan signing in football history — there are rumors that they will seek to extend the deal to ensure that the playmaker can return to action at the club.
“It is early to say what will happen,” an Al-Hilal official told Arab News. “It would be disappointing for our fans, but also for fans of all clubs in Saudi Arabia and the league too, if Omar Abdulrahman does not play here again but the focus at the moment is just making sure that he makes a full recovery.”
From the moment he fell to the ground it was feared “Amoory” was going to miss next year’s Asian Cup, taking place in the UAE in January.
“The initial concern was from the UAE national team about whether ‘Amoory’ would play in the Asian Cup but we soon knew that there was more serious news for us,” the Al-Hilal official said.
Earlier this week, Nick Worth, a former medical services director at UAE giant Al-Jazira told Arab News that fans back home could expect the player, who went under the knife in Barcelona on Wednesday, to make a full recovery.
That may not be much comfort to supporters in Riyadh who had been thrilled by Abdulrahman’s early appearances in Saudi Arabia. Even if the player does return to previous levels that saw him offered a contract by Manchester City in 2012 and subsequently linked to a host of European giants, it is likely that it will be too late for him to don the famous blue shirt in a meaningful fixture again before the loan deal expires.
The playmaker will also miss the 2019 AFC Champions League group stage or second round if Al-Hilal get that far.
“At this stage we accept that he is going to be out for the season. He is receiving the best medical care and should make a full recovery but even should that happen before the season ends, he still would not have time to become fit enough to play any part. Already there are discussions on bringing in a replacement in the transfer window in January.
While Al-Hilal have made a perfect start — win number seven propelled the team to the top of the table for the first time this season above early pacesetters Al-Nassr — the removal of Abdulrahman’s creativity could become an issue, especially with Saudi Arabian international playmaker Nawaf Al-Abed also absent all season with long-standing injury issues.
But encouragingly for coach Jorge Jesus, appointed to the job in June, other players have stepped into the breach. Athletic midfielder Mohammed Kanoo has produced a string of impressive performances and contributed four goals from midfield.
French striker Bafetimbi Gomis has starred since his big-money move from Galatasaray. The backline has stayed solid and without the injury to Asia’s most talented player, it would have been the perfect start to the season.
“I want to thank the fans of Al-Hilal who have given me so much support since I got my injury,” Abdulrahman said on Wednesday.
“It means a lot and I also want to say thank you to my team-mates who keep winning in my absence.”