Xavi: Qatari football league's latest veteran star

Xavi: Qatari football league's latest veteran star
Xavi is the latest in a long line of footballing stars looking for one last big pay day.
3 min read
21 May, 2015
Xavi announced his departure from Barcelona today (AFP)
Barcelona footballer Xavi has won everything in his 17 years at the Catalan club: La Liga, the Copa del Rey, the Champions League and even the World Cup with Spain.

Now, at 35, he's called time on his career in Europe and announced a summer move to Qatar's Al Sadd, signing a three-year deal that will take him to 2018.

"We have a unique opportunity to make history," Xavi said. "I think the Qatar project is nice, and it's ideal for me."

The midfield maestro is not the first European talent to be tempted with a big-money, end-of-career move to Qatar.

Argentinian legend Gabriel Batistuta was one of the first. In 2003, he signed for Al Arabi in a deal worth $8m, after a deal to take him to England's Fulham fell through.

The deal was a major coup for the Qatari Stars League, with the former Fiorentina and Roma player a proven goalscorer, and 56 goals in 78 caps for Argentina.

He may have been 34 when he joined Al Arabi, but he still had his goalscoring knack, albeit against much weaker defences, banging in 25 goals in 21 games over his two seasons in the Gulf.

Another hit in Qatar was Dutch veteran Ronald de Boer, who signed for Al Rayyan in 2004 and then spent three seasons at Al Shamal from 2005.

De Boer, who played for Ajax and Barcelona, and the 1994 and 1998 World Cups for Holland, praised Qatari football.

"The stadiums were great, the pitches were top-notch, like a snooker table - and you always like to play on good pitches," he said in 2010.

If Xavi needs any tips about Al Sadd, he can ask fellow Spaniard, Raul. The striker, who spent 16 years at Real Madrid signed for the Qatari club in 2012 and stayed for two seasons, scoring 11 goals in 39 appearances.

He captained the team to the League title in his first season, their first in five years, before leaving for another favourite haunt of footballing legends looking for one last pay cheque, the US.

Xavi can also ask his former manager for tips on how to deal with the Qatari heat. Pep Guardiola was a great footballer before becoming a great manager, and, having played at both Barcelona and Roma, signed for Qatar's Al Ahli.

Guardiola was playing in the Qatari league at the same time as Batistuta after rejecting a move to Manchester United.

Considered one of the best players in the league over his two seasons, he still found himself on the radar of Chelsea and Manchester City, but turned them down to go to Mexico.

There are others: France's Marcel Desailly played for Al Gharafa and Qatar Sports Club between 2004 and 2006, Steffan Effenberg played for Al Arabi for the 2003-04 season before retiring, and Brazilian Juninho Pernambucano was bending free-kicks in for Al Gharafa in 2009, scoring 15 times in 40 appearances.