Argentine ace Sebastian Tagliabue proves not all foreigners simply after a big payday

Dubai: Ricardo Oliveira, Asamoah Gyan and Grafite. Until recently, you would not have needed to look beyond this trio for the best foreign striker, indeed player, to have graced the UAE’s top flight.

Then along came Sebastian Tagliabue.

On Saturday, the Argentine hitman scored a first-half hat-trick to give Al-Wahda a 3-2 win over Sharjah and keep his team’s desperate quest for the Arabian Gulf League title alive for another week.

If Al-Ain, who won 4-0 against Dibba last Friday, go on to clinch the title as expected, it will not have been for lack of heroics from

Al-Wahda’s captain sits at the top of the goalscoring charts with 19 league goals, alongside Al-Wasl’s Fabio De Lima and one ahead of Al-Ain’s Marcus Berg. With two matches left, it is the same total he scored during the whole of last season.

In 2016-17, Tagliabue led Al-Wahda to a President’s Cup triumph, and this season he has been the driving force behind the Abu Dhabi club’s bid for the title.

His goals have already brought tangible rewards.

He scored a hat-trick in the first leg of the Arabian Gulf Cup semifinal against Dibba, and, remarkably, repeated the feat in the second leg to give Al-Wahda an 8-5 aggregate win.

Not surprisingly, he was the hero in the final as well, his second goal proving the difference in a 2-1 over Al-Wasl, as Al-Wahda ended the match with nine men.

Along the way, records have tumbled. Last month, Tagliabue scored a double against Emirates Club to take his total in the Arabian Gulf League to 103, overtaking Asamoah Gyan’s previous record.

Since scoring a stunning 28 league goals in 25 matches in his first season in the UAE (2013-14), he has gone from strength to strength.

Tagliabue is not only a role model and ultimate professional, but also a fine advertisement for foreign footballers who have made the UAE their home.

Like Grafite and Gyan before him, he is proof that you do not have to be over the hill to move there, helping to shift perception of the Emirati league as nothing more than a retirement home for players looking for one last big payday.

Over the past two seasons his closest rivals have been Al-Wasl’s dynamic Brazilian duo of De Lima and Caio Canedo.

However, the successes of the South American contingent this season have highlighted the fact that absent from the list of top scorers are any real Emirati contenders.

Ali Mabkhout’s record-breaking 33 goals last season have been followed up with a disappointing 11 this time around. But apart from the UAE forward striker, there are no other home grown players in the top 15.

Saeed Al-Katheeri of Al-Dhafra and Al-Ain’s Omar Abdulrahman, with five goals each, are the next local players on the list at joint 20th. Ahmed Khalil, Mabkhout’s international strike partner, has scored a paltry three league goals this season.

The increasing, almost total, dominance of Tagliabue and other foreign strikers is a worrying trend for the Emirati national team as they look to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

It has been some time since the UAE relied on its goals from anyone apart from Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil, with Omar Abdulrahman chipping in with a few from midfield.

Indeed, it was lack of firepower that contributed heavily to a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign and an uninspiring 2017 Gulf Cup tournament, despite reaching the final. All of which, as far as the climax to the domestic season is concerned, is purely incidental. International concerns will just have to wait.

For now, Tagliabue looks unstoppable, and has single-handedly ensured that the race for the Arabian Gulf League title will go down to the penultimate weekend at least.

Should he succeed in helping Al-Wahda achieve an unexpected triumph, it is unlikely the club’s fans will care much for the nationality of their heroes.


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​Os textos, informações e opiniões publicados neste espaço são de total responsabilidade do(a) autor(a). Logo, não correspondem, necessariamente, ao ponto de vista do Central da Pauta.