Sweden striker Marcus Berg on joining Al Ain: ‘It feels very good — they are the Barcelona of Asia’

Striker with 47 international caps is looking forward to leading the line in August

Marcus Berg poses with this No 9 Al Ain jersey following his switch to the Arabian Gulf League club. Courtesy Al Ain Football Club
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Marcus Berg's protracted transfer to Al Ain was finally completed on Wednesday, with the Swedish international joining from Greek side Panathinaikos on a two-year deal. Here are his thoughts on the move.

Prolific at Panathinaikos

Berg, 30, scored 73 goals in 116 league matches since arriving from Germany’s Hamburg in 2013 and was top-scorer in the 2016/17 regular season. A starter for the Sweden national team, he has 12 goals in 47 appearances for his country. At Al Ain, Berg will lead the side’s attack and wear the No 9 shirt, with his competitive debut likely to be the Asian Champions League quarter-final first leg against Al Hilal on August 21. It is believed the transfer fee was €3.3 million (Dh13.7m).

On leaving Panathinaikos

"There has been a lot of emotion back and forth around moving from Panathinaikos," said Berg in an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. "Most people know what I feel about that club. But now it felt like it was time to do something new. When it was at its most difficult in Hamburg a few years ago, with injuries and little playing time, I couldn't really dream about being in this situation in my career now."

On why he chose Al Ain

"Al Ain had been very interested and it is a really big club. Now that I saw their new stadium, the training facility and met those who work in the club, it feels very good. Al Ain are among the absolute best in Asia. When explaining their place in football in this part of the world, they are compared with Barcelona or Real Madrid. The team is not as good as those teams, of course, but Al Ain has the best ranking in Asia. It’s really cool to get to be a part of their project. They have an economy that allows them to bring in very good players. It also means something that they want me to be part of it. There will be pressure on me to perform."

On objectives with his new club

"To win the Asian Champions League again. The only chance to reach the Champions League next season is by winning the tournament this year. But it is a very tough quarter-final coming up against Al Hilal in August. Then we will definitely try to win the [domestic] league in coming season as well. For me personally, this move does not make any difference in my ambition [with the national team]. I have big goals. Hopefully we can get really far in qualifying for the World Cup. Then there will be a European Championship after that. It’s up to me to show what I can do, that I’m good enough to play in the Swedish national team."

On earning a better salary

"I would be lying if I said it does not matter. Together with the sporting and family life, it feels like a good choice. Money has an important role the older you become. To get this chance at nearly 31, to go from the Greek league to a big team in Asia and earn well, it feels very nice. The money will be security for me and my family. Those who know me know I’m not a person who has a flashy lifestyle. I already have enough to satisfy me. The money here was not everything, but it does make it easier. That’s not something I’m ashamed to say."

On receiving other offers

"Me and my agent knew that there would be a few other offers closer to the transfer window opening again. The alternative was to wait and see what would show up. But Al Ain were very persistent and wanted to get the deal done quickly so that was a decision I had to make. Physically, I feel in great shape. I will focus on two years here and then we’ll see what happens. At the moment, I feel I can play for many more years to come."