Superstar Wesley Sneijder to get welcome mat this week from former Ajax pal Mbark Boussoufa

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Mbark Boussoufa (c) in action for Al Jazira.

It will be a case of friends reunited in Abu Dhabi this week when Al Jazira’s Mbark Boussoufa rewinds the clock with the visit of Netherlands superstar Wesley Sneijder.

Ex-Real Madrid, Internazionale and Galatasaray attacking midfielder Sneijder, 33, represents the headline attraction in the capital for the visit of Qatar’s Al Gharafa as Group A in the 2018 AFC Champions League gets off to a glamourous start.

This meeting in a Middle East-outpost is a world away from when the celebrated pair were just teenagers in Amsterdam’s fabled Ajax Youth Academy.

Boussoufa, also 33, has gone on to make more than 350 professional appearances for the likes of Anderlecht, Anzhi Makhachkala and Arabian Gulf League champions Jazira, plus has a spot at this summer’s World Cup with Morocco in his sights. The chance to welcome a familiar face is one he intends to embrace on Monday.

“I played Wesley last season with the national team [Netherlands won a friendly 2-1 in Agadir on May 31, 2007] and it will be nice, I’ve known Wesley since I was 13-years old,” said Boussoufa in the wake of the Pride of Abu Dhabi’s 1-1 draw at Al Wasl in the top flight on Wednesday. “We were both in the academy [at Ajax] and he was around my age.

“It will be nice to see him. Of course, he has done very well for himself.

“I hope he is enjoying himself.”

Boussoufa has had little opportunity for “enjoying himself” during a trying title defence for Jazira.

Institutional disorder has seen coveted UAE striker Ahmed Khalil and ex-France anchorman – plus his team-mate from Anzhi and Lokomotiv Moscow – Lassana Diarra arrive last summer and exit this winter.

A rousing fourth-place finish at December’s Club World Cup on home soil helped lift spirits, yet the midweek stalemate at Wasl means the holders are a colossal 16 points off the pace.

Boussoufa could not deny the draining impact of the off-field distractions.

He said: “There are too many things going on – maybe, too many things. But okay, we are professional players. This year, we did very well at the Club World Cup.

“Not as well in the competition [AGL], but that is normal as it is always difficult to follow up one championship with another.

“That is unless you are the Chicago Bulls – and we are not.”

Jazira will hope to make the Arabian Gulf Cup’s semi-finals when they play Dibba Al Fujairah on Thursday.

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