Al Gharafa prepare for #ACL2018 with two star signings
Doha: Qatar's Al Gharafa have made their intentions clear ahead of the 2018 AFC Champions League Play-offs by bolstering their squad with two major signings; Wesley Sneijder and Mehdi Taremi.
The seven-time Qatari champions have not appeared in the AFC Champions League group stage since 2013 and will look to end that absence when they take on Uzbek side Pakhtakor in the play-off for the 2018 edition on January 30.
Dutch international Sneijder is undoubtedly one of the biggest names to move to the region in the January transfer window and arrives on the back of a glittering career in Europe.
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The 33-year old midfielder starred for Ajax Amsterdam and Real Madrid before going on to win the treble with Internazionale in 2010. Sneijder also spent five successful years in Istanbul with Galatasaray, before signing for French side OGC Nice last summer.
At the international level, Sneijder played an instrumental role in the Netherlands' run to the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, winning both the Silver Ball and the Bronze Boot. He is also his country's most capped player of all-time with 133 appearances.
Sneijder now begins a new chapter in his career with his move to the Qatar Stars League, on an 18-month-contract.
The midfield maestro was officially unveiled to the public on Monday and was presented with the number 10 jersey.
Speaking to the media at his first press conference in Doha, Sneijder expressed his desire to get into the thick of things as soon as possible. "I came here to play football," he said. "The manager will decide if I will start now or not but I want to assure you that I am fully fit to play at any time.
"Al Gharafa have a number of talented players and I hope I can have an excellent season with this team. I will try to show my skills and benefit the team with my experience."
On Tuesday evening, Sneijder took to the pitch for his first training session with his new team and will now look to acclimatise himself before Al Gharafa's next Qatar Stars League game against Al Ahli on Friday.
Meanwhile, within days of Sneijder's arrival in Doha, Al Gharafa pulled off another major coup by signing Islamic Republic of Iran striker Mehdi Taremi.
The 25-year-old had a brilliant year in 2017 as he led Persepolis to the AFC Champions League semi-finals, scoring seven times in the competition, while also contributing eight goals in the qualifiers to help Iran qualify for a second successive FIFA World Cup.
During his four years at Persepolis, Taremi scored 55 goals in 112 appearances, winning the Iranian Footballer of the Year award twice, while also finishing as the league's top scorer in the last two seasons.
Al Gharafa will hope Taremi brings that goal scoring form with him to Doha, as the club look to improve on their sixth place standing in the Qatar Stars League while also aiming for a return to the AFC Champions League.
Historically, star signings have not always translated into success in the competition's play-offs. UAE's Al Jazira were eliminated by Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor at this stage in 2015, after signing Mirko Vucinic from Juventus.
The following year, they inflicted the same pain on Qatar's Al Sadd whose marquee signing Xavi missed the decisive penalty in the 2016 AFC Champions League play-off.
When they line up against Pakhtakor at the end of this month, Bulent Uygen's men will be hoping luck is on their side as they look to stamp their mark on the 2018 edition.
Photos: Al Gharafa Club
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