Al Ain are in advanced negotiations with Eric Gerets, the Belgian coach, to replace Jorge Fossati as manager.
The UAE champions have been searching for a successor to Fossati since last Friday when they decided to release the Uruguayan because of reservations at his playing style and approach to training. He had held the post for 49 days.
Al Ain want the situation resolved as soon as possible, especially as they began their 2013/14 Arabian Gulf League campaign on Sunday with a 3-1 defeat to Al Shabab.
The National understands the Garden City club have made Gerets their No 1 target and have already held extended discussions with the experienced coach. Gerets is in charge of Lekhwiya, the Qatar Stars League side, who he guided to a runners-up finish last season. In May, they lifted the Crown Prince Cup.
With Lekhwiya eliminated on Wednesday from the Asian Champions League quarter-finals – they lost 6-1 on aggregate to China’s Guangzhou Evergrande – the path is clear to tempt Gerets, 59, from his position.
Al Ain place significant value on any potential appointment having considerable knowledge of football both in the Arabian Gulf region and the Asian Champions League, and Gerets’s impressive CV has convinced them of his suitability.
With a playing career that included Standard Liege, AC Milan and PSV Eindhoven – he won the European Cup with the latter – Gerets has coached several prominent European clubs including PSV, Wolfsburg, Galatasaray and Marseille. He has collected silverware throughout his managerial career.
In May 2009, he moved to Al Hilal, the Saudi Arabian club, and in his only season led the side to the league title, the Crown Prince Cup and the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League.
A short stint with the Morocco national team followed, before Gerets joined Lekhwiya.
While an Al Ain source revealed negotiations have proceeded at pace, they do not expect to confirm their new manager until after Friday’s home league fixture against Ajman. Ahmed Abdullah, the reserve team coach, will again manage the side this week.
Al Ain have been linked with a succession of names since news broke of Fossati’s departure, with Abel Braga, the former Al Jazira coach, thought to be favourite for a return to the UAE.
Meanwhile, rumours connecting Michel Preud’homme, another Belgian, to the vacant managerial spot intensified yesterday when he was fired by Al Shabab, the Riyadh-based club.
Yet reports that Rene Meulensteen was being considered appear to be wide of the mark.
The Dutchman, who spent the past few years as a key member of Sir Alex Ferguson’s back-room staff at Manchester United, has been in the UAE to sound out possible employment opportunities with an Arabian Gulf League club, although Al Ain have denied they are interested in securing his services.
Meulensteen, 49, left United in the summer to join compatriot Guus Hiddink at Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkala, where he then succeeded Hiddink as manager, only to be released 15 days later.
Alex Brosque returns to the Al Ain squad for the first time since April for tonight’s game against Ajman, who lost 4-3 to Baniyas in their opening game of the season. The Australian forward had a successful groin operation in the summer and will start on the bench.
Midfielders Ibrahim Diaky and Omar Abdulrahman are both in doubt. Abdulrahman has had a cold the past few days.