Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 September 2019

Former Barca star Xavi wants Omar Abdulrahman and Arab footballers to play in Europe

Spanish star says of Omar Abdulrahman: "A very good player. He’s got a good left foot, a very good talent.”
Spanish footballer Xavi now plays for Al Sadd, Qatar, after a long reign with Barcelona. Xavi says it is important for Arab players to play in Europe where the play is more tactical. Francois Nel / Getty Images
Spanish footballer Xavi now plays for Al Sadd, Qatar, after a long reign with Barcelona. Xavi says it is important for Arab players to play in Europe where the play is more tactical. Francois Nel / Getty Images

DUBAI // Omar Abdulrahman’s growing legion of admirers has another among its number, and they do not come much more illustrious, or authoritative.

Xavi, one of the finest, most decorated midfielders of the modern age, also happens to be a footballing anorak. His knowledge of lower division clubs in Spain and even England, as seen in a recent ESPN interview, is phenomenal.

So it should come as no surprise that he has kept an eye on Abdulrahman, and is impressed with what he has seen.

“Yes, I know him,” Xavi said in Dubai on Monday. “A very good player, he’s a very good talent. He’s got a good left foot, a very good talent.”

Abdulrahman has had a stellar year, which began with a series of outstanding performances that helped the UAE to a third-place finish at the Asian Cup in Australia. Continuing good form and silverware with Al Ain has led him to being shortlisted for the AFC Player of the year, alongside Ahmed Khalil.

As others have advised, however, Xavi also said a move abroad will be beneficial to both player and country. Abdulrahman signed a four-year contract with Al Ain earlier this year, soon after the Asian Cup.

ALSO: This Barcelona side can make history by retaining the Uefa Champions League, says Xavi

In the past he has had a trial with Manchester City and in 2013 turned down a loan deal with Benfica.

Xavi has been impressed by the standard of football in the region. “It is a very good level; the technical level is very high. It is physical also. The difference with Europe is tactical. The teams in Europe work more in tactical training than here.

“It is important for him [Abdulrahman], for Arab players, for the country also” to play abroad. “In the future, to be a competitive country, yes it’s good for them.”

Xavi, 35, is now playing with Al Sadd in Qatar, having moved this summer after a 17-year career at Barcelona, and having signed off with the treble of Spanish league and cup as well as lifting the Uefa Champions League.

He still watches all of Barcelona’s games on TV and was exultant, even yesterday, a couple of days after their commanding 4-0 triumph over Real Madrid.

He is at a moment in his career when he is considering a post-playing future.

He has started to work with the Under 23 team at the Aspire Academy in Doha and has spoken about a future either as a coach or a sporting director. On the experience in Qatar, he said it was “very good”.

“I am very happy to be there. I have a very good project until the 2022 World Cup and I am still a player in Al Sadd. I’ve enjoyed it very much in the field. In the project Aspire Academy, it is fantastic for me if I want to coach in the future. I enjoy that a lot.”

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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Updated: November 23, 2015 04:00 AM

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