It’s coming up for three years since Madjid Bougherra left Rangers, but despite leading Algeria to their second ever World Cup this summer and embarking on a new life in Qatar, the defender still has his mind on the Ibrox club.
With his current contract at Lekhwiya nearing its end he’s targeting a return. Rangers might not have seen the last of “Boughie”.
“My ambition is to go back to my favourite club, Rangers,” he explains. “If there’s no money, I don’t care. I want to go back at some point. It doesn’t matter to me what division they’re playing in. I’ll play for nothing! That’s how much I want to play for Rangers again. It would be the best way to finish my career.”
The Algerian was an integral part of the team that won three successive league titles between 2009 and 2011, also getting his hands on the 2009 Scottish Cup and 2011 League Cup. They were the good times before the bad.
“It feels like ages ago since I was at the club,” says Bougherra. “That’s just because so much has happened at Rangers in that time. It’s sad to see them where they are just now.
“Over those three years we managed to keep the same team, apart from maybe one or two changes,” says the defender who made 81 appearances for Rangers. “It was the best atmosphere and best group of players I’ve ever been involved with. We had very good players and plenty of experience, so it was a shame that it had to come to an end.”
The former Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday player still keeps in touch with a few of his former teammates, namely Maurice Edu, Salim Kerkar and Steven Davis.
However, things ended a little sourly for the defender, or so was reported at the time. The offer of a new contract with Rangers was below Bougherra’s expectations, raging that the terms made him “feel sick.”
“It wasn’t just that the contract wasn’t good enough,” he reflects. “There wasn’t the security in the offer that I needed, and you can see why that was the case.
“I was happy that Rangers got some money for me before my contract ended. At first I wanted to stay as long as possible but the situation at the club changed. We were talking about a four-year contract but the club couldn’t commit to that because of the finances. It was sad for me when I had to leave because I loved the team and the city but it wasn’t possible for me to stay.”
Interest from the English Premier League never resulted in a solid offer, and although the chance to move to Paris Saint-Germain or Russia presented itself Bougherra instead opted for a switch to the Middle East.
“I can’t lie, I wanted to go to the Premier League. That was my aim after Rangers but there was never a genuinely good opportunity to do that,” he elaborates, despite managers like Arsene Wenger expressing their admiration for the defender. “I could have gone to a team near the bottom of the Premier League but I had no real motivation to go to a club like that.
“After being at a club like Rangers you want to play for a team that can win trophies. It’s difficult to play for a successful team one day and then play for a team fighting relegation the next. It didn’t appeal to me so I started to think about different options.”
While still at Rangers, Bougherra visited Doha on something of a personal scouting mission, checking out Lekhwiya’s set-up and the city. He was impressed. “It’s a great place to live,” he affirms. “There’s good weather, it’s quiet when you want to relax but there’s also plenty to do. For my family it’s perfect.”
Of course, Qatar has found itself at the centre of much scrutiny since the 2022 World Cup was awarded to the tiny Gulf state. The ruling Emir has committed vast levels of resources to making Qatar a major player in the soccer world. So did Bougherra go for the money? “Obviously there is money out here but I don’t know what the fuss is about,” he responds.
While the domestic division in Qatar might not boast the same quality as the top European leagues yet (Bougherra says the style is “very French”) the Asian Champions League is where Gulf clubs can gauge their true success, and it’s a competition in which Bougherra has made his mark, reaching the group stages for the first time in 2012.
“There’s a project here,” Bougherra continues. “They want to win the Champions League here, which is what it’s all about over here.”
But after two and a half years in Qatar Bougherra is now free to sign a pre-contract with another team as he enters the final year of his deal with Lekhwiya. The defender seems unsure of what his career will hold for him next as he steps deeper into his thirties, but for now his focus is firmly on the summer.
Algeria’s place at the World Cup was secured thanks to Bougherra’s winning goal in the qualification play-off with Burkina Faso, which he describes as a highlight of his career.
“I can’t wait. It’s going to be unbelievable, with it being hosted in Brazil,” he enthuses. But it could be Bougherra’s last bow on the international stage, as he plans to retire as Algeria captain after the World Cup. “In my head I want to finish at the World Cup, although I might make it as far as the African Cup of Nations in 2015.” Who knows? By then he might be a Rangers player again.