Neill looks at the bigger picture

Long ago, it was being said that most foreign players and coaches were heading to the UAE for the huge sums of money. For sure, they had to perform but with it came massive incentives.

By James Jose

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Published: Sat 27 Aug 2011, 11:23 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:02 AM

But in the past couple of years, the UAE League has been recognised as being quite competitive and it has seen an influx of quality players and coaches. And it is not just about the money anymore. For sure, the money is there but the goals and ambitions of these players and coaches are different.

A host of clubs have notched up some quality signings and double champions Abu Dhabi’s Al Jazira have got hold of Australian captain Lucas Neill to fill in the Asian player slot. Neill didn’t talk about the money but added that the lifestyle here and the safety of his family were factors in moving to Abu Dhabi.

He would know what safety means for his partner Lindsey Morris and their twins — a boy and girl. Less than two years ago, Neill’s house was a victim of thieves who were targeting the homes of Premier League players.

“The lifestyle is amazing here. The weather is always nice. And it is extremely safe for my family. Every day is like a holiday where you can head to beach with your family. Also, it is closer for me to get to Australia rather than from Europe,” Neill said.

But it is not just the lifestyle and the safety of his family that has drawn Neill to Abu Dhabi. It is the bigger picture which he is looking at.

The New South Welshman said he needed a League which would be competitive and help him for the World Cup qualifiers.

“This decision is the first part of my three-year plan which will hopefully take me to at least the next World Cup. I needed to pick an offer that was good for my family, good for my body while also competitive so that I can give my best for the Socceroos in the coming years as captain,” said Neill.

Earlier, in the week, Neill was named to lead a strong 23-man squad for Australia’s opening 2014 World Cup qualifying matches, against Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

Neill comes with an impressive CV where he has played for Premiership clubs Millwall, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United and Everton. He made his move from Turkish club Galatasaray.

“My ambition is to play three or maybe four more years, internationally,” he said.

About how he feels here, Neill said: “This team needs me to fix the Asian puzzle. I know I want to play here. Everyone welcomed me here.”

Neill said that the move here will help him test himself against good Arab, Brazilian and other foreign players and added that quality of football was quite good here. He said that it would help him prepare well for the World Cup qualifiers.

“The world is small now. I want a challenge and to play a different style. I know that in every game I will be tested by good Arab players and good foreign players. My game is important and tough. The gap now in football is very small. Every team is catching up and everyone is getting closer,” said Neill, who in 1996, became the second youngest player after Harry Kewell to debut for Australia. He was 18 years and seven months when he lined-up for a friendly against Saudi Arabia.

Neill had his first run in Al Jazira colours in the second fixture of the IPIC Al Jazira International Football Friendly Tournament at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

And despite the hot conditions, he was pleased to get some match fitness. “It was warm but it was warm for everyone. But it was nice to play a game and get match fitness. It was also a chance to get to know the players. It is very hard to judge going by one game. Different players were used and will be used. In such tournaments, the result is not important. It is about getting match fitness and trying out everybody and giving everyone a run,” said Neill.

· —james@khaleejtimes.com



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