Ex-Stoke City boss Mark Hughes has popped up for the first time since being sacked by Southampton more than a year ago – as a soccer pundit in Qatar.
The 56-year-old has been keeping a low profile since his last footballing job ended on the south coast in December 2018.
But this week he was in Doha working for beIN Sports, the Qatari channel which owns exclusive rights to the Premier League and Champions League across the Middle East and North Africa.
Hughes, who was manager of Stoke from 2013-2018, used his visit to look at preparations for the 2022 World Cup, which Doha is hosting.
During a tour of the World Cup pavilion he predicted the tournament would be a big hit with fans and players because everyone would be able to stay on one place for the duration of the tournament.
The longest distance between the eight stadiums will be just 34 miles meaning fans will be able to see more than one match a day if they wish.
“I was a player for many years and I know the hardships of moving from one place to another during a tournament,” said Hughes, who never featured in a World Cup because his country, Wales, always failed to qualify.
“It affects everyone, including players, coaches and fans. But in Qatar, the tournament will be different. Players won’t have to travel, change their place of accommodation or training sire. And because of this, I believe we’re going to witness a spectacular level of performance as the focus will squarely be on football.
“I think it will be fantastic for fans. Everything will be close by thanks to the metro and other forms of transport. They also have the chance to attend two live games a day – something we’ve never really seen before at a major tournament.”
Hughes described the eight stadiums being built for the tournament’s estimated 1.5million fans as ‘spectacular’.
During his five-year spell at Stoke, he guided the club to three consecutive ninth place finishes in the Premier League, but the team fell to 13th the following season.
He was dismissed in January 2018 with the club on course for relegation and shortly knocked out of the FA Cup by then-League Two side, Coventry.
Hughes, who only survived nine months at Southampton in 2018, scored twice in the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup Final for Manchester Utd against Barcelona and also won two Premier League titles and four FA Cup medals.
Talking about the current season, he said Liverpool had an opportunity to complete a famous double.
He said: “After 30 years, Liverpool will finally win the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp has done an outstanding job. They also have a fantastic chance of winning the Champions League for a second year in the row.”