Arabs are rich. But more than just being happy to be affluent, they are passionate about football. Besides SUVs, buying football’s biggest stars seems to be their latest fad. They splurge dollars to recruit any big names of world football. Last Sunday, Al Sadd’s biggest catch was the ever glamorous and nicest footballers of all time, former Spain and Real Madrid legend Raul Gonzalez.
The three-time Champions League winner and all-time record goal-scorer in Europe’s greatest competition has already become the darling of Al Sadd, who secured his signature after what is sure to be his exit from competitive football.
At the presentation ceremony, there was excitement all over as the former Spanish skipper walked inside the hall. Attired in a smart, black suit, Raul looked contented to be in this part of the world where demands are still high for retired footballers.
But at 34, he still looks like a strapping youth with a boyish charm. “I am fit enough to play in the gruelling season in Qatar,” he quipped. That sentence, like Raul’s career-long virtue, is a bold statement.
Understanding the chalk-and-cheese difference between Indian football and Gulf, for me to be present at Raul’s presentation was indeed a big thing. After all, there you don’t get to watch such ‘star-signings’ in India.
Al Sadd are the reigning Asian champions. For them it must have been a prize catch to have in their ranks someone like Raul who I’m sure will help his new club win more trophies in the new season. The Qatari club is not used to such a drought of trophies and the latest setback came when they lost the Emir Cup final against Al Gharafa a day before the Raul signing.
Last month, when it was announced that the Spaniard would leave Bundesliga club Schalke 04, Raul had hinted that his future lies outside Europe and, in a league which is not as strong as the Bundesliga.
Before moving to Qatar, the iconic footballer had a discussion with the outgoing Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. ”Pep told me that the game here is on the move. I think I can give my experience to this club.” he said.