There comes a time in every footballer’s career when they are no longer a prized asset.
But that doesn’t mean they have to hang up the boots. There’s always a second-rate league hoping to entice once world-class stars in search of a final payday.
Between 2003 and 2005, before the mass migration to China or America, that destination of choice was the Qatar Stars League. You couldn’t move for former Champions League and World Cup winners.
Prior to the Noughties, football in Qatar had been a complete farce.
Relegation and promotion was switched on and off at will, while in 1994 the Qatari Football Association ruled games ending in draws would go straight to penalties in a bid to boost attendance.
But then some bright spark had the idea to hand every club $10million to splash on high-profile foreign players.
Let the good times roll…
Gabriel Batistuta (Al-Arabi)
Batigol turned down the chance to leave Inter Milan for Fulham in 2003 and instead signed with Al-Arabi.
Having already been crowned Copa America, Confederations Cup, Serie A and Coppa Italia top scorer during his career, life in Qatar was never going to be too troubling for the long-haired net botherer.
So it proved, with Batistuta lifting the 2004 Qatari League Top Scorer award. They’re the ones you dream about as a kid.
Pep Guardiola (Al-Ahli)
If you thought Batistuta turning down the chance to retire on the banks of the River Thames was mad, Pep rejected Man United to sign for Al-Ahli in 2003.
He helped Al-Ahli qualify for the Arab Champions League, playing in the tournament during his second season at the club.
But the following season he was off, turning down United, Man City and Chelsea to join Mexican side Dorado de Sinaloa. He clearly wasn’t a big fan of the Premier League back then.
Fernando Hierro (Al-Rayyan)
Spain’s one-time leading goalscorer needed an exciting new challenge after spending 14 years at Real Madrid. Unfortunately Al Rayyan were the only club that got in touch.
The centre-back scored a goal every six games at Al Rayyan which, by his prolific standards, was a pretty poor return.
After a solitary season in the sun Hierro hot-footed it to Bolton for one final hurrah with Big Sam’s Galacticos.
Ronald and Frank De Boer (Al-Rayyan and Al-Shamal)
The De Boer brothers played for Ajax, Barcelona and Rangers together, so there was little surprise when they both joined Al-Rayyan in the summer of 2004, winning the 2005 Emir of Qatar Cup.
The pair moved to Al-Shamal a year later, presumably in a BOGOF deal.
Ronald was the last man standing when he called it a day in 2008. We like to think he still rubs that in Frank’s face at the dinner table.
Marcel Desailly (Al-Gharafa and Qatar SC)
Desailly spent two years in Qatar, playing for Al-Gharafa and Qatar SC.
The Frenchman scored at an impressive rate of 1 every 4.66666666667 games while playing for Al-Gharafa, although he failed to add to his spectacular trophy haul at either club.
Lucky, because there wasn’t much room for more silverware with the Champions League, World Cup and European Championships already perched on his mantelpiece.
Frank Leboeuf (Al-Sadd and Al-Wakrah)
From one World Cup, European Championship and Confederations Cup Frenchman to another.
Leboeuf won the Qatar Stars League with Al-Sadd in his first season and the Sheikh Jassim Cup with Al-Wakrah in his second.
The centre-back had a strike rate of roughly one-in-three during his time in Qatar. We’re starting to think it might have been quite easy back then.
Stefan Effenberg (Al-Arabi)
Effenberg partnered Batistuta at Al-Arabi, as he had done a decade earlier when the pair were at Fiorentina.
This spell was less prolific, with Effenberg scoring just four goals during a trophyless campaign before retiring.
Claudio Canniggia (Qatar SC)
Caniggia is the only player to score at a World Cup for Argentina and play for Dundee.
A 2003 move to Qatar SC, where he won the Prince Cup, was supposed to be the final chapter of a globetrotting career.
Nine years later he dusted off the boots to play for Wembley. What a man.
Sonny Anderson (Al-Rayyan and Al-Gharafa)
Despite being one of the less iconic names to swap Europe for Qatar, Anderson was arguably the best performing.
The former Barcelona striker scored 24 goals in 20 games for Al-Rayyan, winning the 2005 Qatar Stars League golden boot.
A move to Al-Gharafa followed, with Anderson scoring six goals in 19 appearances before calling it a day. Retirement money well earned.
READ MORE FROM THE WORLD OF DREAM TEAM:
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- Paul Pogba admits bizarre penalty technique is designed purely to annoy Graeme Souness
- Why Fernandinho is, for me, the most underrated footballer in Premier League history
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