Al Nasr's Moroccan midfielder Adel Taarabt. Image Credit: Imran Malik / Gulf News

Dubai: At the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Morocco are in Group F with Belgium, Croatia and Canada. The team, ranked 22nd in the world, could find the going tough what with Belgium and Croatia the favourites to finish in the top two spots.

In situations like these it is often useful to include experienced heads in the squad to help the younger players. Coach Walid Regragui has some quality at his disposal such as Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech but there was no room for playmaker Adel Taarabt who recently joined Adnoc Pro League side Al Nasr on a two-year-deal having been released by Benfica.

'Wish them the best'

But the 33-year-old wing wizard is not holding any grudges. “They are at the World Cup and I wish them the best,” says the former Tottenham and Queens Park Rangers fans favourite.

“It is my country, I helped them to qualify for the tournament during the qualification process. But I knew it would be hard to get in the national team when I moved to the UAE to play in Dubai as the coaches were selecting players playing in European clubs because they feel the level there is better.”

Born in Fez, Taarabt decided to represent Morocco despite playing age-group football with France, and made 30 appearances since his 2009 debut. His most recent cap came in a friendly against the United States in June.

Apart from the Premier League, Taarabt has played for AC Milan in Serie A and has a wealth of knowledge of the game, not to mention skills with the ball, but Morocco will have to do without his services. “For me this is no problem, I am happy. During the qualifiers the team had a different coach, Franco-Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic, and then when the new coach Regragui came I knew my chances of being selected were less.”

New experience

He says playing in Dubai for Al Nasr is a totally difference experience than playing in England in the Premier League but he is really enjoying it. “It is a different type of football and the weather is not easy as it is very hot, but I am trying to adapt as quick as possible with my team and my teammates. I am enjoying it and I want to do my best here. Coach Thorsten Fink and his staff welcomed me here really well.”

He feels the level in the UAE is completely different to that in Europe especially on the tactical side of the game and although there are many good and skillful players in the league, it can improved. “If more players come from European leagues it will help to improve the level here. I think that is the aim of the authorities here. If they can get a similar system in place like in Saudi Arabia where they allow up to seven or eight foreign players to play in teams – here three of four are allowed – I think the level will improve.”