It’s a big loss for Mexico as well as CONCACAF in general, but it’s not often you see somebody pay $15 million to take a player from the region, not to mention the massive wages it probably took to convince Christian “Chucho” Benítez to leave Club América for Qatar. But that’s exactly what El Jaish has managed to do, beating Premier League sides Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City to the 27-year-old Ecuadorian.
El Jaish finished last year’s Qatari Stars league 11 points behind league-leading El Sadd, a late season swoon opening a gap between them and second place Lekhwiya. Their third place finish allowed the club to qualify for the next Asian Champions League.
Benítez represents part of the buildup for that competition, El Jaish adding the América star to a squad captain edby former Marseille midfielder Karim Ziani, one that has also added Korean Go Seul-Ki from 2012 Champions League winners Ulsan Hyundai.
Benítez, who scored 52 goals in 79 games after joining América two years ago, will make his second excursion beyond the Western Hemisphere, the former occurring during the 2009-10 English Premier League season. Then, Santos Laguna loaned Benítez to Birmingham City, where 30 appearances and 21 starts produced only three goals.
When Birmingham City elected not to make Benítez’s loan permanent, the striker moved back to Santos and scored 20 times in 35 games, closing his career in Torreón with 51 goals across three seasons.
The Qatar league is currently home to a number of other names who will be known to wider audiences. Former Real Madrid attacker Raúl scored nine goals while helping Al Sadd to the league title. Former Villarreal forward Nilmar was the league’s second leading goal scorer, recording 14 goals for Al Rayyan, while former Campeonato standout posted nine goals for Al Gharafa.
Former Bolton Wanderer Andranik Teymourian, former Marseille attacker Bakari Kone, PSG exile Nene, former Spartak Moscow star Alex, and Algerian defenders Mahjid Bougherra and Nadir Belhadj also play in the league.