Yasser Al-Qahtani bowed out in the same style with which he graced the football field

Saudi Arabia forward Yasser al-Qahtani celebrates his goal against Tunisia at the 2006 World Cup.
Updated 16 April 2018
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Yasser Al-Qahtani bowed out in the same style with which he graced the football field

  • Al-Qahtani announced his retirement last week after a long and successful career.
  • Al-Qahtani scored 42 goals in 108 appearances for Saudi Arabia.

Yasser Al-Qahtani ended his playing career with the same style that was ever-present on the pitch. An emotional video showed the Saudi Arabia striker hanging up that iconic number 20 shirt in the dressing room before draping an Al-Hilal scarf around his neck.  
 It was a fitting end to an epic career. The video was trending just hours after another Al-Hilal league title, the fifth for the player. Add lots of cup triumphs, two AFC Champions League finals and it is clear his was a successful career.
The same can be said about his time on the international stage where he represented the Green Falcons over 100 times. This writer was present in Munich during one of his biggest moments when he got the first goal in Saudi Arabia’s opening game 2-2 draw against Tunisia at the 2006 World Cup. Al-Qahtani had announced his arrival on the global stage and he looked at home. A year later, he led his nation to final of the 2007 Asian Cup with four goals along the way and was then named the AFC Player of the Year a few months later.
He had everything that a striker needs. Pace — just look at his goal against Tunisia when his speed took him between two defenders into the area — a fierce shot, great close control combined with fine aerial ability. In short, he lays claim to be the best West Asian striker of the 21st century.
However, as fine as his career was, there is a what-might-have-been aspect too. He could have starred in Europe. I talked to Tunisian defender Rahdi Jaidi, then with Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League, after the 2006 World Cup clash and he was impressed with the striker.
“He is a fine player,” said Jaidi. “He could easily play in England, he is strong, fast and direct and I am sure he has a bright future.”
 Bolton were linked with the player as were Middlesbrough. Al-Qahtani sounded like he was ready for the challenge.
“I have no clue what is going to happen next,” he told Arab News in 2007. “I hope to play in Europe ... it’s a dream. I would love, for the benefit of my team, to play in Europe and gain more experience — I would love to go to England or Spain.”
Winning the AFC Player of the Year award brought with it a trial at Manchester City. According to former City goalkeeper John Burridge,  Al-Qahtani arrived in England with a large retinue and was none too pleased at being the target of a “welcome” challenge from big center-back Richard Dunne. The time was seemingly all wrong and the player never made it back to Europe.
It is a shame as it would have been fascinating to see “The Sniper” in the big leagues. He could have been a success. Still, he gave fans at Al Hilal years of effort, goals and trophies. The Saudi Professional League will not be the same without Yasser Al-Qahtani.


Jose Mourinho’s sacking leaves the ‘Special One’ at a career crossroads

Updated 18 December 2018
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Jose Mourinho’s sacking leaves the ‘Special One’ at a career crossroads

  • Since the middle of last season, Mourinho had been involved in a power struggle with senior members of the playing squad
  • A string of uninspiring performances since the season started saw Mourinho come in for criticism from all sides

LONDON: Five years after being snubbed for the Manchester United job immediately after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho has once again been unceremoniously rejected by the club after two-and-a-half fractious and tumultuous years at the helm.
And the truth is, it was an inevitable divorce.
Since the middle of last season, Mourinho had been involved in a power struggle with senior members of the playing squad, openly criticized board members for a lack of backing in the transfer window and the majority of fans had started to turn on the so-called “Special One” and his tactics.
And while they would never do so publicly, no doubt several of the players who had fallen foul of Mourinho’s wrath were privately breathing a sigh of relief when the club announced that Mourinho had left the club with “immediate effect” on Tuesday.
Indeed, the player Mourinho clashed with the most — £89 million ($112 million) midfielder Paul Pogba — deleted a controversial social media post of himself smiling after the news broke.
That controversy was a microcosm of the French World Cup winner’s stormy relationship with Mourinho.
But the former Juventus player, who retuned to Manchester United having already been with the club during the Ferguson era, was repeatedly criticized by Mourinho during his reign and Pogba was stripped of the United vice-captaincy earlier this season.
The pair were captured having a frosty exchange on the training ground as Mourinho grew angry with his key midfielder’s lethargic performances, dropping him on several occasions to spark talk he would be sold by the end of the season.
And even on the pitch, the writing has been on the wall for a while.
A string of uninspiring performances since the season started saw Mourinho come in for criticism from all sides, as the Portuguese became more and more embittered and paranoid in his dealings with the media.
The final straw for the club was Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, who United usurped as the biggest club in England under Ferguson’s 27-year reign. And the Scot was seen shaking his head as he watched his dynasty unravel in front of his eyes at the hands of United’s bitterest of rivals.
While the Merseyside club battle it out for the Premier League title with Manchester City and Tottenham — all playing a refreshing, exciting brand of football — United find themselves 19 points adrift of the summit and struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Mourinho’s stagnant, defensive approach jarred with supporters, some of whom have only known the rampant attack-minded approach the club used to such devastating efficacy under Ferguson.
Mourinho was brought in to bring back those glory days after David Moyes and then Dutchman Louis van Gaal struggled to step out of Ferguson’s shadow.
And despite first-season League Cup and Europa League titles, he has failed miserably since. And he has bought himself little good grace with fans and officials, finding new excuses and ways to blame each latest defeat on his players, while ungraciously reminding critics of previous successes at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
But this ignominious end for Mourinho in what he called his “dream job” leaves him at a crossroads in his career. Few clubs will have been inspired by his playing style with a highly-talented team, even fewer will want to deal with the off-field tantrums and constant bickering.
Having arrived in English football as a breath of fresh air, he leaves it (for now) like a foul odor. With the prospect of no club to manage, no trophies to win and no teams to build, Mourinho is now much less the “Special One,” and more and more likely to be the “Tainted One.”