Reflecting on Ahmed Khalil’s outstanding career in the UAE


Ahmed Khalil became one of the most influential players during the early stages of his UAE career.

Born in Sharjah, Khalil was brought up with a family of footballers. His father was a former player in Kuwait, whilst his brothers all played for Al Ahli, where the striker started his journey.

After staring in the GCC U17 Championship where he was named top scorer with five goals, Khalil joined the first team and made his debut at the age of 16.

Since then, he has been a hot topic in Emirati football. He won his first club honour a season after joining the Red Giants and was named the Most Promising Arab player and the Asian Young Footballer of the Year.

The 29-year-old spent 11 seasons with the Red Knights, scoring 72 goals in 179 appearances, winning three top-flight titles and the Arabian Gulf Cup twice. The forward also played a vital role in Ahli’s run to the Asian Champions League final.

As his impact and status had increased in UAE, he was looked at a lot more and had rumoured interest from many clubs in Spain, Italy and England.

In 2015, Khalil bested compatriot Omar Abdulrahman and China’s Zheng Zui as he became the first Emirati to be named Asian Player of the Year, helping his country to third place in the AFC Asian Cup.

However, a stunning early release saw the 29-year-old leave his boyhood side to join Al Jazira and line up alongside the talented Ali Mabkhout. He became one of the highest-paid footballers in the UAE earning an estimated $5 million per year.

Despite his success previously with Al Ahli, he struggled to continue that form with the Abu Dhabi side. The UAE forward made just two substitute appearances for Jazira and was since involved in a contract saga which led him to leave the club and join Al Ain on a six-month contract.

A much improved spell followed but the inconsistencies were showing as it has done throughout his career. He netted six times in 16 appearances during his short spell but after a difficult period, Khalil re-joined his former side of Al Ahli.

He has featured four times this season scoring twice as Mahdi Ali’s side remain third with 43 points and are on a stunning 13-match unbeaten run as they look to qualify for the AFC Champions League qualifiers. They next visit Al Nasr on Friday looking to win their fifth UAE League Cup title.

Khalil scored 47 goals in 106 appearances for his country winning the Gulf cup and most importantly netting twice against Uzbekistan in 2012 which sealed UAE’s first appearance at the Olympics in 2012. It was the biggest achievement of Emirati football team since they qualified in the 1990 World Cup.

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