You have been with Al Sadd since 2015 as a player and coach. What are your thoughts?
I have been here since 2015, and it was the best period of my life when I decided to come to Doha. I found a big family which is the Al Sadd family, and from the beginning, it was a story of love and love with Al Sadd club, the players, the management, the club and the fans. It was a great honour for me to be a player in Al Sadd. Then Al Sadd gave me the opportunity to take over as coach, and I can say it was the best period of my life, especially in terms of family life here. It was perfect with my wife and kids who were born here.
How do you rate the 6 years you spent in Doha?
It was a great honour to be the coach of Al Sadd, so after six years, I am of course very sad to leave the country and leave Al Sadd, because I leave a lot of feelings here especially for me and my family. It was amazing and amazing moments and I consider it a love story forever. I will love Al Sadd forever, I will love Qatar forever. I enjoyed it a lot and I improved a lot and was developing with the players. I had a lot of fun and then I started as a coach.
Did you achieve 7 titles with the best leader for you?
Honestly, I can’t say that this particular title is the best because when we evaluate this period, I remember the four titles I won as a player, plus seven titles as a coach, but more than that I think it’s about the way we play and how the players adapt to our new philosophy. It wasn’t easy at first, and then I think I felt it changed when we played in the Qatar Cup in my first season when we beat Al Rayyan 4-1, then in the final, we beat Al Duhail 4-0. It was a great tournament for us.
What is your most memorable moment with the team?
It’s difficult to pick exactly one moment. For example, in those early days, it was really difficult, but I felt a lot of respect from the management, the players, the club and the fans. It was really emotional during the meeting with the players. I was crying because during those six years I had a very positive relationship with the players and management.
What is the greatest goal you scored for Al Sadd?
It was probably my greatest goal when we played in the AFC Champions League in Uzbekistan and I scored two goals. Of course, we drew and didn’t win but I remember those two goals well, a free-kick from distance, the first of which was after a pass from Baghdad and I scored a really great goal.
The hardest moment in your dealings with players?
Of course, I remember when I started working as a coach and everyone in the stands wanted to fire me. It was a very difficult moment, honest, but I totally get it. I’m not new to the world of football. It happened to me in Barcelona a few times. I understand that because when you don’t get results, in the end, people are very angry. I understood the situation and tried to change it. I spoke to the players very directly and frankly and I remember telling them that if I was the problem, I’m walking out.
How did you live out of the 2019 Champions League?
I remember very well this period because we lost against Al Hilal, it was a big mistake for us here in our stadium, I told the players that there were two games, that we had to be calm, not be nervous, and control our nerves, but that was impossible, and then I remember the red card Abdelkarim Hassan, and how the team was regressing after that for a month and a half, and we lost our chance in the Qatar Stars League. In the period after that, we improved a lot at the Qatar Cup.
Did you implement your ideas in the world of training before you left?
Yes, I think I did everything I could for the players. I tried to make them feel confident and comfortable. I remember telling the players that we have three goals as coaches. Firstly, to help the players professionally and personally, secondly, to enjoy training and on the field during matches, and thirdly, to win. We won almost everything. I will just remember that we were unlucky in the AFC Champions League League. That is the point I will remember.
Do the players want their upcoming coach to be like Xavi?
When the players say that, I feel proud. This is because it’s about respect. It means that they don’t struggle in training, that they are enjoying it. It makes me very happy. We have a very talented team with great personalities and professionals who will make the coach who comes after me love it here. Therefore, don’t worry, the one who will take over as Al Sadd coach will enjoy and be happy here.
What is your message to the audience?
I want to say thank you very much. I also learned from them that when they criticize, it is normal. Despite this, I felt that they supported me and the team. In times of hardship, a team needs the fans. We are experiencing hardships now, so I would like to thank the fans for always being loyal and being the biggest fans.
What is your last word about the club?