Abdenasser El Khayati Interview: Choosing Mumbai City FC was an easy decision for me
In an interview with indiansuperleague.com, El Khayati shared his early impressions of the new club, the reasons behind his decision to join the Islanders, his partnership with Greg Stewart, and much more.
Mumbai City FC midfielder Abdenasser El Khayati marked his home debut for the Islanders in their recent 2-1 victory over Kerala Blasters FC at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday.
The Dutch midfielder had an impressive inaugural season in the Indian Super League (ISL) with Chennaiyin FC, where he demonstrated his technical prowess and exceptional vision on the field, amassing nine goals and five assists in just 12 appearances for the Marina Machans.
Now a part of the Islanders, a team known for their attacking brand of football, El Khayati is poised to thrive further under the guidance of Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham. His arrival at the Islanders was closer to the season, so he is currently in the process of reaching peak fitness. During the ongoing international break, El Khayati intends to focus on improving his fitness and building a stronger bond with his new team, thereby helping his side perform well in the ISL and the AFC Champions League.
Following the game against Kerala Blasters FC, El Khayati spoke exclusively to indiansuperleague.com and shared his early impressions of the new club, the reasons behind his decision to join the Islanders, his partnership with Greg Stewart, and much more.
Here are the excerpts of the midfielder’s interview:
It was your first game at home wearing Mumbai City FC colours. How do you feel after joining the club, and what has been your experience with the team, which is known for being very attack-minded?
The latest style of play certainly suits me a lot. Playing in an attack-minded team like Mumbai City FC is great, especially when you consider how they performed last season. It's an honour, of course, and I believe it's going to be a perfect fit for me. However, I do need a few more weeks to bounce back since I joined a bit late. This is only my third week with the team, while the others are already in their twelfth week.
But now, we have a break until October 23 for the AFC Champions League, so I have another two weeks to prepare, get ready, and improve my fitness.
Obviously, you are competing with Greg Stewart, who is one of the best players in the league. How is the competition for your position?
Well, we don't really focus on that (competition between each other). Of course, Greg can play in the same position as I do, but we can also play alongside each other, and (together) we can (potentially) be even better. It's just that we need some time, and then we'll see how it develops. For me, it's not really about competition. If Greg plays, I hope he scores and assists, and the same goes the other way around as well.
Compared to Chennaiyin FC last season, Mumbai City FC tend to keep more possession of the ball and most of the opposition are defending deep. So how much does it change compared to Chennaiyin FC last year where you didn't have a lot of space and had to work in tight spaces?
This is just a theory at this point. I've only played a few minutes and very few games so far. However, the way we (Mumbai City FC) play that will change a lot. I should be able to create more opportunities, score more goals, and provide more assists compared to my time at Chennaiyin FC. Don't get me wrong; I had a great time there (at Chennaiyin FC). But in many games, we often dropped back, waited, and focused on defending, which left us very far from the opponent's goal. Here at Mumbai City FC, there will be many opportunities to be closer to the goal, be dangerous, and I can use my qualities.
How have you found Des Buckingham? Are you enjoying yourself here at Mumbai City FC?
Of course, I am enjoying it (playing under him), but I also want to prove myself first before I can enjoy it even more. But yeah, I am enjoying it. The way we want to play, the coach is very attack-minded, you know the quality he has to let everyone play to their full potential, which is a great quality he has.
What made you decide to join Mumbai City FC, especially considering it was quite late in the season?
Yes, it was indeed quite late. But you know, in football, things happen very quickly, and when they approached me, I realized that I could also have some AFC Champions League games under my belt, which would be a valuable addition to my career since I haven't played in the Champions League in Europe. So, it was an easy decision for me.