Doha: Al Sadd had the best defence in QNB Stars League last season conceding only 25 goals, and that statistic is going to be bettered this season if their new signing Gabi Fernandez has his way.
The former Atletico Madrid captain is one of the best in the world in protecting the defence, operating just in front of it and providing it with a cover that is ever diligent to potential threats.
Gabi did it for Atletico for so long, playing a splendid part in making Diego Simeone’s side one of the most difficult teams to score against, and he is raring to continue in the same vein for Sadd.
Along with fellow Spanish maestro Xavi Hernandez and new South Korean signing Jung Woo-young, Gabi makes Sadd midfield look the best in Asia.
His simple yet combative yet style of play and winning mentality would be a perfect foil for the midfield creativity of Xavi, who can now focus wholeheartedly on his game.
"Our goal has been to reach peak levels of technical and physical fitness ahead of the new season. It feels great, the team is training as a single group, as a family that is looking to achieve victories together,” the 35-year old told Al Sadd website on the sidelines of a training session in Bad Haring, Austria.
“I have been working with a great group of players and coaching staff. I feel part of the group,”
Gabi said the team has a lot of great players.
“The level of training is high, especially as there are many excellent players in the team, such as the captain Xavi, the striker Baghdad Bounedjah, Akram Afif and others. I expect the coordination between the players to improve further as we near the start of the competition.”
“Al-Sadd are a big team and our aim will always be to win titles. So, this season we will aim to win all the championships.”
And Sadd have a very good chance too of doing it. Not only in the QNB Stars League, but also in the AFC Champions League where they take on Iranian side Esteghlal in the quarterfinal.
The acquisition of Gabi and Jung seem to have given Sadd a definite edge over fierce rivals and Qatari champions Al Duhail, who have changed their coach and will miss the services of their injured captain Youssef Msakni for at least a couple of months.
As important to Sadd as Gabi’s combative style of play is his insatiable thirst to win.
“My goal is to always play to win and this is what we are working towards at Al Sadd, as we go in search of titles.”
As for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup, Gabi said “I am sure that the organisation (of the 2022 World Cup) in Qatar will be at a high level, like the one in Russia, or even more because of the importance Qataris give towards organizing a model tournament. Also, I think the presence of international stars in the league will help in developing the level of football before the next World Cup.”