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10 Arab footballers who have starred in Europe…and 5 who should have

Before Mohamed Salah, many Arab footballers had made moves to some of Europe’s top leagues. Ali Khaled runs the rule over 10 that have enjoyed varying degrees of success…

1. Rabah Madjer (Algeria)

The Algerian international Rabah Madjer joined Porto from Racing Paris in 1985, having started his career at NA Hussein Dey. Scored Algeria’s 2-1 win over West Germany at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, and later attained hero status in Portugal for his back-heeled goal in the dramatic 2-1 win over Bayern Munich in the 1987 European Cup final, and scoring the winner in the Intercontinental Cup later that year.

2. Noureddine Naybet (Morocco)

The Moroccan international appearance record started his career at Wydad Casablanca, before joining Nantes and then Deportivo La Coruna for only £1.6m. In Spain he won one La Liga title, one Copa Del Rey and two Spanish Super Cups, before moving to Tottenham in 2004 for two seasons.


3. Mido (Egypt)

One of the most travelled Arab footballers, the Egyptian Ahmed Hossam Hussein, better known as Mido, joined Gent in Belgium from Zamalek, and went on to play for Ajax, Celta Vigo, Marseille, Roma, Tottenham, Middlesbrough, Wigan, West Ham and Barnsley.

4. Ali Al Habsi (Oman)

Oman’s captain and goalkeeper left Al Nasr in his homeland for Lyn Oslo before moving to England just over a decade ago. He has since played for Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic, Brighton and Hove Albion (loan) and Reading.

5. Amr Zaki (Egypt)

In the summer of 2008, the Egypt forward made loan move from Zamalek to Wigan, where he scored 10 goals in 29 matches, including a stunning overhead effort against Liverpool at Anfield. His stay was short-lived, however, and after another loan move to Hull City, left the Premier League for Turkey.

6. Mohamed Zidan (Egypt)

Before even making his senior club debut in his native Egypt, Zidan joined Akademisk Boldklub in Denmark at only 18. The Egyptian enjoyed a successful career in Germany where he played for Werder Bremen, Mainz and Hamburg, before winning two Bundesliga title with Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund.

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7. Ahmed Elmohamady (Egypt)

Started his career in Egypt at Ghazl El Mahalla, before moving on to ENPPI. From 2010 the right-sided wingback has played on loaned and on permanent basis for English Premier League sides Sunderland and Hull. Remains an international for Egypt, for whom he has won 74 caps.

8. Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

Riyad Mahrez moved to Leicester City from Le Havre in 2014 raised few eyebrows at the time. However, an astonishing 2015-16 season by player and club delivered a scarcely believable Premier League title, and made the French-born Algerian international one of Europe’s most sought-after players.

9. Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)

Though still only 24, Elneny has already represented Egypt on 50 occasions since making his debut for Al Mokawloon in 2010. After three years at Basel in Switzerland, he joined Arsenal where he scored the club’s goal of the season against Barcelona and won an FA Cup medal.

10. Islam Slimani (Algeria)

Algerian international Slimani joined newly crowned Premier League champions Leicester City from Porto for a club record £28m last summer. Despite some promising performances, has failed to have the same impact as his countryman Riyad Mahrez.

And five who should have…

1. Ismail Matar (UAE)

The original golden boy of Emirati football, Matar won the player of the tournament award at the 2003 Fifa World Youth Championship held in the UAE, a tournament that also included the likes of Andres Iniesta and Fernandinho. In 2007 led the UAE to their first ever trophy, the Gulf Cup of Nations, but rumours of big moves to Europe never materialised for Al Wahda’s captain.

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2. Yasser Al Qahtani (Saudi Arabia)

The gifted Saudi forward has enjoyed a successful career at Al Hilal and for his country, for which he has cored 42 goals in 112 internationals, including one at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Won the Asian Footballer of the Year in 2007, and having previously been linked to several moves to Europe, finally had a trial at Manchester City that year. Unfortunately the move did not materialise and Saudi’s captain spent the rest of his career in the Gulf.

3. Nasser Al Shamrani (Saudi Arabia)

Another Saudi international who won the Asian Player of the Year, in 2014, the Al Hilal forward undoubtedly had the talent to try his luck abroad, but several controversies held his back progress.

4. Omar Abdulrahman (UAE)

UAE superstar and arguably Asia’s best player, Abdulrahman has been on the radar of many European clubs since starring at the 2012 London Olympics. Outstanding performances at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia raised expectations that he might take the plunge but has so far resisted leaving his beloved Al Ain.

5. Ali Mabkhout (UAE)

After finishing as top scorer at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia, the UAE forward was strongly linked with a move to Germany. But like international colleague and close friend Abdulrahman has stayed at home and last season led Al Jazira to the Arabian Gulf League with a record breaking 33 goals.


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