Omar Abdulrahman’s participation at the 2019 Asian Cup was thrown into doubt on Saturday night when the UAE international sustained an injury playing for club side Al Hilal.
The former Al Ain captain, the national team’s prize asset, was stretchered off against Al Shabab Riyadh after jarring his right leg when reaching for a pass in the fifth minute. He was soon pictured in tears on the Hilal bench.
The Saudi champions later posted a video on social media showing Abdulrahman on crutches post-match, with Abu Dhabi Sports reporting the playmaker had sustained a medium tear to the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Should that be the case, it places in serious jeopardy Abdulrahman’s chances of making the Asian Cup. The tournament, played in the UAE for only the second time and first since 1996, runs from January 5-February 1, with Abdulrahman seen as integral to his side’s hopes of a strong showing.
The UAE, runners-up in 1996 and third at the most recent tournament three years ago, open the event with their Group A encounter against Bahrain on January 5, before they meet India and Thailand. The 2019 tournament has been expanded to 24 teams.
UAE manager Alberto Zaccheroni therefore faces an anxious wait regarding Abdulrahman. The attacking midfielder, the 2016 Asian player of the year, had seemed to be regaining somewhere close to his best form following a protracted move to Hilal this summer.
Last week, he scored a fine equaliser in the UAE’s 1-1 draw in the friendly against Honduras.
Abdulrahman, 27, has a history of knee issues and twice underwent major surgery earlier in this career. A number of international teammates and former colleagues at Al Ain offered their support on social media on Saturday, with the UAE national team’s official Twitter account wishing Abdulrahman a speedy recovery. The Football Association have yet to comment.