The 10 Biggest Arab Soccer Players
By: Pamela Dimitrova/Arab America Contributing Writer
The soccer world is constantly introduced to new talents from different nationalities and backgrounds, proving what matters is the talent and the love for the sport. But while the usual viewer is used to European and Latin American stars “stealing” the spotlight, many forget the impact Arab soccer players have, not only in their own countries, but also on an international level. Here is a list of the top most famous and talented Arab soccer players you may not have heard of until now:
10. Noureddine Naybet
Born: 10 February 1970, Casablanca, Morocco
Naybet played a record 115 matches for the Morocco national football team for over 16 years. He joined Deportivo La Coruna in 1996, and won one Spanish League title, one Copa Del Rey, and two Spanish Super Cups. Naybet then went to Tottenham Hotspur in 2004, for two seasons, but only scored one goal against Arsenal. He retired in 2006.
9. Ismail Matar
Born: 7 April 1983, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Playing for Al Wahda and captains the UAE national team, Matar was awarded the Golden Ball at the 2003 World Youth Championships. He led the UAE to their first-ever trophy, the 2007 Gulf Cup of Nations, in Abu Dhabi, scoring five goals in five games as a player in the tournament.
8. Mohamed Aboutrika
Born: November 7, 1978, Giza, Egypt
Retiring in December 2013, Aboutrika was named “Best Africa Player of the Year” four times and tallied 38 goals for the national team in 100 appearances, including four World Cup goals.He scored three goals in the 2006 games alone, where he was the top scorer. His only spell abroad was with Abu Dhabi club Baniyas for six months in the last year of his career.
7. Sami Al Jaber
Born: 11 December 1972, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Now manager of Al Wahda, Abu Dhabi, Al Jaber played at four World Cups, won 163 international caps and scored 46 goals for the Kingdom in a two-decade career, before retiring in 2008. He won the Saudi League seven times with Al-Hilal, as well as two Asian Champions League titles. He briefly played at Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2000/2001.
6. Omar Amoory Abdulrahman
Born: 20 September 1991, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Taking the UAE to third place in the 2015 Asian Cup, Abdulrahman has turned his back on any imminent European move. All this despite interest from numerous clubs, including Arsenal, Barcelona, and a brief trial with Manchester City by inking a four-year deal with Al Ain (with whom he’s been with since he was 15) thought to be worth AED 14m a year. Currently, he plays for Al Jazira.
5. Hossam Hassan
Born: 10 August 1966, Cairo, Egypt
Egyptian retired striker and manager of Al-Ittihad Alexandria since 2014, Hassan is Egypt’s top scorer ever with 68 goals. He represented the national team in the 1990 World Cup and in seven Africa Cups of Nations. His twin brother, Ibrahim, played for most of the same teams. Hassan first played for Al-Ahly at the age of 18 and won 25 titles with the club, including 11 leagues. He retired at 42 and currently serves as the manager for Smouha SC in the Egyptian Premier League.
4. Ali Al Habsi
Born: 30 December 1981, Muscat, Oman
Wigan Athletic goalkeeper and captain of the Oman team, Al Habsi became the first Omani to play in Europe for the Norwegian team, Lyn Oslo, before transferring to Bolton Wanderers in 2006. He is the first Arab player to win the FA Cup. The 1.96m goalie led Oman to win the Gulf Cup of Nations for the first time and got his 100th cap with the national side in the 2015 Asian cup.
3. Rabah Madjer
Born: December 15, 1958, Algiers, Algeria
Undoubtofully, one of the most famous Arab soccer players, Porto and Algeria legend, Madjer, took Algeria to the final in the 1980 African Cup of Nations after a 12-year absence, and then captained the Desert Eagles to their only win a decade later. He also took them to two World Cups. Madjer scored 29 goals for FC Porto between 1985 and 1988, including the equalizer that got Porto their first European Cup. He managed several clubs, as well as the Algerian team.
2. Majed Abdullah
Born: 1 November 1958, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Spending his entire club career at Al Nassr in Riyadh, and scored nearly 200 league goals in his 21-year domestic career, Abdullah is now their manager. Impressively, he held the world record for international appearances with 140 caps for Saudi Arabia, and made it to the 1994 USA World Cup as Saudi Arabia qualified for the first time ever. When he set up a Twitter account last year, it was flooded with 214K fans in the first two hours.
1. Mohamed Salah
Born: 15 June 1992, Nagrig, Egypt
Salah won the prestigious “Golden Boot” as well as “PFA Player of the Year.” He was also nominated for FIFA’s “The Best Men’s Player” along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric. Salah has scored an impressive 33 goals in 57 appearances for his national team ,and in June 2018, led Egypt to its first World Cup debut since 1990. During that time he scored the country’s only two goals in the tournament, earning himself the “Man of the Match” award against Saudi Arabia.
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