Nabil El Zhar felt immense pride as he watched Liverpool become champions of the world for the first time.

Now based in Doha playing for Qatari side Al Ahli SC, the FIFA Club World Cup in December brought about an opportunity for El Zhar to show his three children the true size of the club their dad used to represent. 

"I had tickets to go and watch the games. I brought my kids because I talk about Liverpool all the time," he tells Liverpoolfc.com. "I could say to my kids: 'Look at who I played for, look at these fans, they have fans all over the world.'

"This, for me, is the biggest team in the world and the biggest fans by far in the world. I was proud."

It's a feeling that's been present ever since El Zhar became a Red as a youngster back in 2006 after joining from Saint-Etienne. 

He would go on to represent the first team of the club he supported as a child 32 times across five years. Every second was a privilege. 

"I remember going to play games for the reserves and all the way I was just looking at the logo and telling myself, 'This is unreal, I'm playing for this team, look I have the tracksuit, the logo'," the 33-year-old remembers.  

"There's some things like this that you can still remember 10 years after or even more. Honestly, I had a great, great time over there.

"I can also say right now because I don't think I've said it until now, when I received the call from Liverpool, I was going to sign for AS Roma. I was in Italy to sign five years for AS Roma. 

"The minute I received the offer from Liverpool, I just went to France to get everything done to fly to Liverpool. I just told my agent that I wanted to go to Liverpool. 

"They wanted me and wanted to send me the offer [by] fax. I told my mum to get the fax and as soon as she got the fax, I travelled down. My agent was not happy because he was not involved in this deal!"

The highlight of El Zhar's Liverpool career arrived on what was his very first start for the club. 

In the XI for a fourth-round League Cup tie with Cardiff City in October 2007, the No.42 opened the scoring with a long-range piledriver in front of the Kop.

Nabil El Zhar's goal against Cardiff City

"It's one of my best moments in my career," he states. "For me, I just need to close my eyes and I remember this goal perfectly. 

"Also the assist was from Steven Gerrard – what more can you ask for?"

The next objective was to earn further minutes on the pitch, and the following season – 2008-09 – saw El Zhar feature 19 times in all competitions.

The disappointment of missing out on the Premier League title that year is still sore to this day: "Maybe the biggest disappointment in my career."

Reflecting on that period, how El Zhar played in Rafael Benitez's side – containing the likes of Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reina – also brings about some regrets.

He acknowledges: "I mean, I was comfortable with these guys but I had maybe too much respect.

"As someone that always respects, I'm very respectful, to see this kind of player with you, I'm not saying I didn't deserve it but you're always there and say to yourself, 'You need to do a lot more in order to get to this level'. 

"I was training very hard every [session] but you're always there and know it's going to be difficult to be better than them. But you always try."

A season-long loan spell at Greek side PAOK preceded El Zhar's exit from Liverpool in 2011 as he headed to Spain for more regular game time with Levante, Las Palmas and then CD Leganes.

The decision was made last summer to head to Qatar, where a current Liverpool player is an extremely popular figure among football fans.

"When I signed for Liverpool, everyone in Morocco was supporting Liverpool and now you can see it over here in Asia, in Qatar," El Zhar says. "Mo Salah also because he's an Arabic player, so they follow him because Egypt is close to Qatar. 

"They support everyone but they have a special [feeling] for Mo Salah. For myself, too, because he's Arabic, he's a good example. The image he gives to the people, it's very positive and we take him as an example to someone that stays humble, works hard and achieves his dreams. 

"But there are many players in this Liverpool team that shows that character to the whole world."

El Zhar finishes: "My kids are big, big, big Liverpool fans. I always tell them what's on and now they are very big fans and they ask me always, 'When are you going to take us there, when are we going to see this player and this player?'

"They will have to be a little bit patient because I still play football and it's difficult for me to travel. When I retire, I've promised that I will take them to Anfield. 

"I still have my house [in Liverpool] and just want to still have something there that attaches me to the city, to the club because I spent a few years there. Not every day was easy because I was living alone, but I learned a lot and became a man there.

"Just talking with you now, that brings me a lot of emotions."

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