Middle eastern players are a rare commodity in Europe. Other than a few players, who are often dual national of another European country, the football crazy part of the world has had little representation in the world’s best leagues.
Legends like Mohamed Aboutrika, Younis Mahmoud, Yaser Al Qahtani and other greats never stepped foot in Europe, opting to remain in their comfort zone.
However, European clubs have started looking for new sources of talent which saw the likes of Ali Adnan and Mohammed Salah amongst others move from relatively unknown middle-eastern sides and find themselves in the big leagues just a few years later.
This summer window is one of the most important in years as the World Cup is just less than one year away, and many are hoping to find their way to Russia alongside their national teams, and a move Europe might achieve just that.
Here are ten Middle Eastern players who we think should make the move to Europe this summer.
Algerian | 25 | Striker | Al Sadd SC – Qatar
The Algerian international has proven to be a formidable striker when provided service.
Under the guidance of Spanish maestro Xavi Hernandez, Bounedjah claimed the Qatari golden boot in his first season with Al Sadd, scoring 27 times in 26 games.
The physically commanding striker has a high football IQ, finding himself in a position to score very often. Standing at 6’1 the Algerian also excels in heading and hold up play.
Despite his impressive record, Bounedjah has found himself out of favour in the Algerian squad, mainly due to the weak competition he faces.
With the World Cup looming and Algeria being a strong candidate to represent Africa, the Oran-born striker may want to make the move to Europe this summer in order to increase his chances at boarding the plane to Moscow.
Omar Al Soma
Syrian | 28 | Striker | Al Ahli- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Possibly the best striker playing in Asia, Omar has been the continent’s most feared player since his moves to Al Ahli three seasons ago.
Standing at 6’4 the Syrian striker has been often linked to Zlatan Ibrahimovic due to their similar stature and attributes; both players are deadly finishers who are powerful in the air as well as having a knack for scoring from long range.
Omar has won the Saudi league top goal scorer’s honour in the past three consecutive seasons, a feat matched by no other player.
Omar has scored a 105 goals in 100 games for the club, making him one of few players with a positive goal to game ratio in the world.
Omar, now 28 years of age and arguably at the peak of his career, should seriously consider the move to Europe.
Despite having failed to secure a work permit when his services were requested by Nottingham Forest a few years ago, a record like that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Turkish giants Galatasaray and German team Schalke have been rumored to be in for Al Soma in the past, and with many teams looking out of the box in order to land a capable striker, he may soon find an offer that will be too hard to pass on and finally make the jump.
Emirati | 25 | Midfielder | Al Ain – United Arab Emirates
The 2016 Asian player of the year is undoubtedly the most obvious name on this list.
Another transfer window approaches and speculation of “Amoory” making a move to Europe rises again.
The Emirati magician has been one of Asia’s standout players, dazzling the crowd with his incredible dribbling ability and passing accuracy.
Omar is the UAE’s golden boy, the star of it’s biggest club Al Ain, but as the player is reaching his prime years it may be now or never for the playmaker.
One thing to note is that it would be incredibly hard to turn away the huge salary and the fans admiration he enjoys in the Emirates just to be another player in Europe.
However, it is a step that he may have to take in order to further improve his skill set.
Qatari | 23 | Left Back | Al Sadd- Qatar
The giant of man is one of the most experienced players in the middle east.
Having made his debut for the first team as a 17-year-old, Abdelkarim has established himself at Qatar’s best left back, winning over 60 caps for his country at such a young age.
Standing at 6’1 Abdelkarim is a physical specimen, hard to out muscle, incredible pace, and has a huge leap on him, making him perfect for his fullback position.
Having already won everything there is to win in Qatar, including the highly prestigious Asian Champions League, now could be the perfect time to make the move to Europe.
Abdelkarim has a huge advantage to his favour, being an Aspire graduate means he could easily request a move to Belgian Pro League side Eupen, which is owned by his former Academy.
The club has produced talents like fellow country-men Akram Afif who has signed for Valencia last summer, as well as Henry Onyekuru who is being chased by Arsenal, West Ham, and Newcastle United amongst others.
Moroccan | 20 | Striker | Difaâ Hassani El Jadidi – Morocco
The young centre forward is perhaps North Africa’s most promising talent; the player excels in positioning and heading.
Often beating defenders to the first ball, this led to manager Abderrahim Taleb counting on him being the target man at his team despite his young age.
The Moroccan international, however, did not disappoint, scoring 30 goals in 66 games over the past three years.
His impressive record has attracted attention from Egyptian giants Al- Ahly as well as French outfit Montpelier, with the World Cup next year and Morocco being a strong contender to reach the finals, the young talisman should seriously consider a move to the big leagues in order to improve his chances of making the squad.
Egyption | 23 | Winger | Al- Zamalek – Egypt
The Young Egyptian has had experience in Europe in the past.
Short spells with Luzen and Grasshopper in Switzerland as a teenager were unsuccessful.
Disciplinary reasons led to Kahraba being released and joining Al Zamalek in his home country Egypt.
However, Mahmoud is a changed man now showing excellent attitude and leadership qualities as his club went months without paying him due to financial hardship.
Kahraba scored 16 goals and provided two assists in 20 league games for Saudi club Ittihad, whom he joined on loan last season.
His parent club has confirmed that Kahraba will leave this window but a high asking price is deterring many Middle Eastern sides from signing him, leaving the door for richer European clubs to pounce on the player.
Tunisian | 27 | Wide Midfielder | Étoile Sportive du Sahel – Tunisia
A set-piece specialist with an eye for goal, Hamza is one of the few players in the Tunisia squad that is not based abroad, but perhaps that should change in this upcoming transfer window.
Lahmar usually operates as a wide midfielder but can also play in the center and behind the striker.
The Tunisian has a great skill set, often impressing the crowd with his great dribbling abilities.
However, Lahmar is not just another showmen, he has been praised by pundits and coaches alike for his professional attitude and tactical discipline.
Lahmar is approaching his prime years and now could be the perfect time to make the jump to Europe.
Iraqi | 23 | Striker | Al- Zawraa – Iraq
A former Asian Young Player of the Year, Mohannad has really picked up some stride in the past two years after an unfortunate season away in Algeria where club player Albert Ebossé died on the field.
Mohannad returned to Iraq and led al Al-Zawraa to a historic campaign, winning the league undefeated as well as picking up the Golden Boot as the league’s joint top goal scorer.
The striker went on loan for a short period this past season to Al-Nasr in the UAE, scoring four goals in ten games.
Meanwhile, on the national front, Mohannad has taken the throne from legendary striker Younis Mahmoud following the latter’s retirement.
He scored four goals in seven games but that wasn’t enough as Iraq are eliminated from World Cup contention.
However, at only 23 years of age the sky’s the limit for Mohanad but a move to Europe will most definitely turn him into an even better player.
Qatari | 21 | Goalkeeper | Al-Gharafa – Qatar
Another Aspire graduate, Yousef had an outstanding debut season with Al-Gharafa, despite having to deal with a mess for a backline he salvaged the most out of a bad situation and saved Al-Gharafa on numerous occasions.
His heroics have been applauded by many pundits and fans alike.
Yousef has had experience in europe, having played in Spain and Belgium as a teenager but an injury had prevented him from a pro contract on both occasions.
However, now with a fantastic season under his belt and a complete recovery from injury, perhaps it’s the time for Yousef to give Europe another go.
Egyption | 23 | Winger | Al-Zamalek – Egypt
Nicknamed “ElSafel (The Immoral)” due to his habit of humiliating defenders, Fathi is one of the most exciting talents in the middle east.
A quick, two-footed player, Fathi operates on the wing for Al-Zamalek and his national team.
The 23-year-old has featured 80 times for the Egyptian giants in the league since joining four years ago, scoring 13 times and providing ten assists.
Mostafa suffers the same problem as teammate Kahraba – a stubborn chairman has rejected offers from Torino and Palermo in the past due to the low fee offered by both.
However, with each game Mostafa continuous to prove his worth, and a European team will soon splash the cash in order to get his services, hoping to recreate the form of Mohammed Salah and Ramadan Sobhi, who proved to be a huge success for their European clubs, both on and off the pitch.