A throng of players from the Middle East and North Africa are consistently lured to the wealthy clubs of the Gulf states. Doha-born playmaker Hussein Yasser caused surprise, therefore, when he headed in the opposite direction in May 2008.
"I think it was very logical to come to Cairo," the 25-year-old told FIFA.com. "Al Ahly are the best team in the Arab region and have a world-class reputation. They compare to any European club and are on a solid financial footing."
"I was longing for a new challenge and always wanted to achieve things in Egypt, given that I'm half Egyptian. Playing for Al Ahly catapults you to international stardom."
I was longing for a new challenge and always wanted to achieve things in Egypt. Playing for Al Ahly catapults you to international stardom.
The son of a former Egypt international, Yasser was tipped for stardom from an early age. He made his professional debut with Doha outfit Al-Rayyan and won his first cap for Qatar soon after, having been called up to the U-17 side by Dutch coach Rene Meulensteen, who later recommended him to Manchester United.
Following a short spell with the Red Devils' youth academy, he moved to Belgian team Antwerp on loan, later joining the ranks of Cypriot side AEL Limassol. After a season to forget in Cyprus, Yasser moved back to England, where he spent a short, disappointing spell at Manchester City, before leaving Eastlands to return to his first club, Al-Rayyan, for one season.
In the summer of 2007, Yasser began a new chapter in his nomadic career, returning to Europe with Portuguese outfit Sporting Braga. During his time there, he became the first Qatari to take part in the UEFA Cup, only to switch to Porto-based Boavista during the January transfer window.
"That was the best stint of my career," said Yasser, recalling his one and only goal in the UEFA Cup. "I was trying hard to fulfil my personal ambitions and become part of a great club."
Those lofty aspirations were never achieved, however, and in May 2008 the diminutive playmaker signed for Al Ahly after a meeting with their former coach Jose Manuel. But much to everyone's surprise, the relationship between the two men deteriorated during Yasser's first season in Cairo.
"He created a lot of problems for me, but it was all unnecessary," lamented the young Qatari. "Unfortunately, it became something personal in the end and, as a result, I never played a whole game. I think it was wrong and unprofessional of him to criticise me and the rest of players after he left the club."
Yasser considered another departure at the end of last season, but changed his mind after Jose Manuel quit to take charge of Angola, hosts of the upcoming CAF African Cup of Nations. "I was fed up playing under him and would have considered walking out had he not quit," declared the player.
"Things are much better now and I get along very well with the new staff. They promised me a chance to prove myself this season, and I've performed well every time I've played so far."
Hussein has, indeed, gained the confidence of his new coach Hussam Badry, taking full advantage of his stint in the starting line-up. He particularly impressed in Al Ahly's defeat of Al Shortah on Matchday 2 of the Egyptian Premier League, before helping his employers salvage a point in the following game by setting up the equaliser against Haras El Hedood.
Yasser also aspires to lead his nation to further glory at the Gulf Cup of Nations, following their first title in 2004. "Qatar is my home country and the secret of my success," he said. "I'm proud to play for the Qatari national team.
"We'll host the Asian Cup on home soil in 2011, when I think we'll have a great chance to reach the final. We'll certainly make the most of home advantage, because Qatari fans are faithful to their teams and great football-lovers. I'm sure they'll spur us on to victory."
We'll reach the World Cup in the near future. We've gained a high degree of competence. It's just a matter of time.
However, Yasser and Qatar are dreaming of something even bigger. "We'll reach the World Cup in the near future," he insisted. "We've gained a high degree of competence, but we still lack experience. It's just a matter of time.
"The recent qualifiers proved very tough, as we were drawn in a very difficult group alongside the two strongest teams in Asia, Japan and Australia. That said, we're among the top ten in the continent, which a big achievement in itself."