Football in Qatar has been trying to earn its place on the ‘king sport’ map for some years now. Securing World Cup host status in 2022 was the icing on the cake, but so far the small emirate on the Arabian Peninsula’s sustained efforts have been focused elsewhere. Among many others, the acquisition of PSG, a flagship club of French and European football, but not only… For years, the Qataris have been trying to improve their country’s football by bringing in big-name coaches from the big game or, conversely, giving early-career coaches a chance to shine.
The example of Xavi is the most obvious. The former Catalan midfielder has retired from football in Qatar with Al Sadd. It was here that he also began his coaching career and, fortunately for him and his career, with notable results, which helped him to end up, after just two years of coaching, on the Barcelona bench. Xavi won four trophies as a player at Al Sadd and then seven as a coach! Among them, a Qatari league in 2021 and two cups in 2020 and 2021.
But Xavi is just one of the big names to have coached in Qatar at some point. In the following rows, we will see other big names who have done their “apprenticeship” in this championship.
1. Sami Trabelsi
We start the list with the longest-serving foreign coach in the Qatar Stars League. Tunisian Sami Trabelsi has been at the helm of Al Sailiya for 10 seasons, but he has managed to win very little: only three trophies in a decade, including two Qatari Stars Cups (2021, 2022). At the same time, however, the Tunisians have the most matches as a coach in Qatar of all foreign coaches: 213.
2. Michael Laudrup
Before Xavi, another former La Liga great, Michael Laudrup, formerly of Barcelona and Real Madrid, coached in Qatar’s top league. The Dane spent his coaching career at Brondby, Getafe, Mallorca, Spartak Moscow, and Swansea before arriving in Qatar, where he coached Lekhwiya (2014-2015 season) and Al Rayyan (2016-2018). Unfortunately, Laudrup didn’t have the success of Xavi, failing to win any trophies in Qatar.
However, of the foreign coaches who have coached in Qatar, he is the tenth with the most matches played: 72.
3. Eric Gerets
Belgian Eric Gerets is another big name in European football who has coached in Qatar. He only coached Lekhwiya, a team Laudrup also coached, but the Belgian stayed for two seasons, 2012-2014, just before the Dane came. Unlike Laudrup, Gerets managed to win two trophies in Qatar, a Qatar Prince’s Cup in 2013 and a championship in 2014.
4. Diego Aguirre
Uruguayan Diego Aguirre coached Al Rayyan, another team where Laudrup was also on the bench, twice, from 2011-2013 and then from 2019-2020. In addition, the South American also coached Al Gharafa in 2014. Only with Al Rayyan did Aguirre also manage to conquer trophies, four in all, all in his first tenure.
5. Laszlo Boloni
The Romanian coach is ranked 8th on the list of foreign coaches with the most matches played in Qatar, 74, all of them on the bench of Al Khor between 2012-2015. However, the Eastern European coach has never won a title with the Knights. The Romanian coach has also coached in the Middle East with Al Jazira and Al Wahda in the United Arab Emirates and Al Ittihad in Saudi Arabia and is now at Metz in France.