Former Real Madrid captain Nacho signs for Saudi Arabian team Al Qadsiah while at Euros with Spain

DONAUESCHINGEN, Germany (AP) — Former Real Madrid captain Nacho Fernández has signed for Saudi Arabian team Al Qadsiah, penning the two-year contract while at the European Championship with Spain.

Newly-promoted Al Qadsiah announced Nacho had joined as a free agent on Thursday — three days before Spain’s round of 16 match against surprise package Georgia — after the deal was signed in Düsseldorf.

Nacho was at Madrid for more than two decades after joining the club’s youth academy in 2001. Madrid announced on Tuesday that the 34-year-old was leaving.

“I didn’t see myself playing against Madrid nor do I want to,” Nacho said at a news conference on Thursday at Spain’s Euro 2024 base camp in Donaueschingen. “I would never want to play against them. To stay in Europe, I would have renewed my contract.

“It’s going to turn my life upside down, but it’s what I need. I don’t want facing Madrid to be an option.”

The move comes less than a month after Nacho lifted the Champions League trophy with Madrid for the sixth time after the team defeated Borussia Dortmund at Wembley for a record-extending 15th European Cup triumph.

“Throughout my career I always wanted a happy ending and I never dreamed it would have turned out so beautifully,” Nacho said. “I have given everything and that is how I want to be remembered.”

Nacho won 26 trophies with Madrid, a record he shares with Luka Modric, and made 364 appearances in 12 seasons at the Spanish club after making his first-team debut in 2012.

“The decision is the most difficult that I’ve had to make in my life,” Nacho said. “I would be lying if I said I haven’t had doubts. I told the club months ago my intention to leave.

“When everything is as beautiful as this season, of course you have doubts about why not hold on for one more season, but I was honest with myself and I needed a new experience.”

Spain has won all three of its matches at Euro 2024 without conceding a goal. Nacho played the full 90 minutes of his team’s opening 3-0 victory over Croatia but missed out against defending champion Italy and Albania.

Next up is Sunday’s knockout match against Georgia, which pulled off one of the biggest shocks in European soccer history when it beat Portugal on Wednesday to reach the last 16 on its tournament debut.

“Can this affect me or the national team? I would have liked for this to have been resolved before,” Nacho said. “Thank God we won all three games and the team is focused.

“This type of thing does not affect my ability to play games. I knew this for several months and that has made me enjoy it even more. This does not affect us in the least. After this press conference the only thing we want is to focus on Georgia.”


AP soccer:

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