All photos courtesy of Al Sadd FC on Flickr
Hundreds of football fans turned up at Hamad International Airport last night to welcome the now-former FC Barcelona Captain Xavi Hernandez to Qatar as the newest and most high-profile member of Al Sadd Sports Club.
The superstar Spanish midfielder, known as Xavi, landed in Doha around 11pm. He and his wife Nuria Cunillera were greeted at the airport by Al Sadd Sports Club General Secretary Jassim Al Rumaihi and other club officials, while fans took photos and asked for autographs.
Xavi is joining Al Sadd on a three-year deal in a joint player-coach role, the football club announced in a press conference last month after months of speculation about his possible move.
The 35-year-old will also work at Aspire Academy and serve as an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup.
Xavi is expected to undergo medical tests at Aspetar, the specialist orthopedic and sports medicine hospital this morning, the club said in a statement issued last night.
He will be formally introduced to fans and media in a press conference on Thursday afternoon ahead of his debut for Qatar Stars League next season.
Xavi’s move to Qatar comes immediately after his team celebrated a triple win in Barcelona this season, with victories over Juventus in the 2015 UEFA Champions League final, while also winning La Liga and Copa del Rey.
He led his team in a parade through the Catalan capital on Sunday, followed by celebrations at Barca’s home stadium Camp Nou, before getting on a plane to Qatar.
His move to Doha follows that of another former Spain teammate Raul, who played for Al Sadd from 2012 to 2014.
Xavi made his professional debut in August 1998 against RCD Mallorca. He has since played in more than 760 matches and scored 82 goals, while he has represented his country 133 times.
The athlete has also won over 25 trophies, more than any other Spanish football player in history.
Xavi chose Qatar’s club over an offer from New York City’s MLS, according to the Qatar Tribune.
Al Sadd is one of the top local football teams in Qatar. It won the Asian Champions League in 1989 and 2011, and finished third in the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup after losing to Barcelona in the semi-finals.
Laudrup to stay
In other football news, current Lekhwiya SC manager Michael Laudrup will stay on for at least another year after recently extending his contract with the team, his representative in Doha said.
On Twitter, the manager’s representative confirmed that the former Danish international would continue in his position:
Michael Laudrup after thinking several offers had to end has decided to sign one year contract with his former clup Lekhwiya Fc.
— Bayram Tutumlu (@BayramTOficial) June 8, 2015
The news put to bed rumors that he would leave Qatar for other possible positions with clubs in the UK.
Are you excited about Xavi playing for Qatar? Thoughts?