Almen Abdi is disappointed to see his teammate and very close friend Joel Ekstrand leave Watford this summer.
Abdi and Ekstrand have forged a close bond during their time at Udinese and Watford. They are neighbours in Hampstead, travel to the Hornets’ London Colney training ground together on most days and often head out into London together on days off. Adbi watched Ekstrand on his comeback game for the under-21s against Brentford at Clarence Park and gave him a lift home. As one club employee once told us: “If you see Almen Abdi with somebody, it’s usually Joel Ekstrand.”
“Joel is a good friend,” Abdi said when he spoke to us about the pair’s friendship last month. “I would be disappointed if he leaves in the summer but that is life as a footballer. Your friends move on. I know it hasn’t been easy for him after his injury but he has worked really hard to come back. It is important Joel does what is best for his career and I am sure he wants to be playing matches again after so long out.”
As Abdi is talking, his mobile phone rings. He ignores it the first time but, minutes later when it buzzes again, he checks who is calling. It’s Ekstrand. The Swedish international is waiting in the car park to give Abdi a lift home.
“We travel in together almost every day,” Abdi said. “It makes sense because we live close. He doesn’t get control over the music though, that’s mine. Sometimes we will listen to hip-hop, sometimes it will be house music. It is really based on how I feel. Joel understands and he is quite honest if he doesn’t like something. He is certainly not afraid to tell me if he thinks it is rubbish.”
So with Ekstrand set to head off, how does Abdi envisage he’ll spend his time away from the pitch?
“I don’t play golf or anything like that,” Abdi joked. “I obviously live in London and I am very comfortable living there. If the weather is good I enjoy going out to different places but if it’s bad, like it seems to be for about six months, then I’ll stay home. I’ve been here four years now so I don’t feel like I’ve always got to get out and explore. I am always relaxed. That won’t change.”