The UAE Pro League is packed with ballers

7 forgotten ballers we can’t believe are playing in the UAE Pro League: Iniesta, Taarabt…

Former Barcelona, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund stars are among the forgotten ballers who are currently playing in the United Arab Emirates Pro League.

There’s no doubt that football has taken huge strides forward in the Middle East over these last few years. The Saudi Pro League in particular, has attracted plenty of big-name players to the region.

However, Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country that is pushing the boat out in terms of superstar signings. We’ve taken a closer look at the UAE Pro League and have found seven forgotten ballers now playing in the league.

Andres Iniesta

Since leaving Barcelona in 2018, Iniesta has kept himself out of the headlines. He enjoyed five years playing in Japan with Vissel Kobe and last summer made the move to UAE outfit Emirates.

Still going strong at 39, Iniesta still knows how to twist up a defender with a drop of the shoulder or bamboozle an entire backline with one killer pass.

Along with running the show in midfield, he’s also played several matches upfront this season. In 14 games for Emirates so far, the Spanish playmaker has scored three goals and has provided one assist.

It’ll be a sad day when he eventually calls it quits on his playing career.

Adel Taarabt

We’re still guilty of watching a Taarabt compilation now and again, but who isn’t? His 2010-11 campaign with QPR in particular will live long in the memory.

Even in his twilight years, the Moroccan midfielder is still rinsing defenders. Taarabt joined Al-Nasr in 2022 and unsurprisingly, he’s looked a level above the competition.

The former QPR and Benfica trickster has played 47 matches in the UAE and he’s produced 26 goal contributions from midfield in that time. Not too shabby.

READ: A celebration of Adel Taarabt and his ability to make your dad angry

Miralem Pjanic

Following his bizarre move to Barcelona in 2020, Pjanic was never quite the same afterwards. He tried to get his career back on track with Besiktas, but after that didn’t work, he joined UAE club Sharjah in 2022.

“I chose Sharjah because they really wanted me. It was a good project,” Pjanic told reporters upon joining the club.

“I’m here to give my experience also for the younger players, the local players, use my experience to let them grow. They can count on me.”

The 34-year-old has racked up 54 appearances for Sharjah and has produced 17 goal contributions in that time.

Manolo Gabbiadini

Fondly remembered from his stints with Southampton, Sampdoria and Napoli, Gabbiadini is now doing the business for Al-Nasr in the United Arab Emirates.

The 32-year-old made the switch to the Middle East in the summer and he has managed to bag 10 goals in 16 appearances so far. By the time his contract ends in 2026, we’re in no doubt that he’ll have scored a bucket load.


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Remember Allan from his stints with Napoli and Everton? The Brazilian midfielder called it quits on his career in Europe in 2022 and opted to join Al Wahda on a two-year deal.

He came close to winning the title last season, but Al Wahda ultimately finished five points shy of eventual champions Shabab Al Ahli.

His contract with the UAE club is set to expire at the end of the season so there’s every chance that he’s on the move again this summer.

Paco Alcacer

The Spanish forward was only 28 when he decided to leave Europe and join the UAE Pro League.

He originally joined Sharjah on loan, although two days after his arrival, his contract with Villarreal was terminated which then allowed him to join the UAE club on a permanent basis.

Alcacer got his hands on two trophies during his debut season, although he was reportedly pushing for a move back to Europe in the summer.

While a switch to Europe didn’t materialise in the end, he was sent out on loan to fellow UAE side Emirates where he now plays alongside Iniesta.

Aboubakar Kamara

Also known as AK47, the former Fulham frontman is now leading the line for Al-Jazira. The Mauritania international rarely sticks around in one place for long, so we wouldn’t be surprised if he ups and leaves and the end of the campaign.

Having played in six different countries throughout his career so far, Kamara isn’t shy to push himself out of his comfort zone.