Quique Sanchez Flores appears to have managed his final Al Ain match, with the Garden City club having reportedly decided to dispense with his services.
The Spaniard was installed as manager by the two-time defending Arabian Gulf League champions last September, replacing Jorge Fossati, who was dismissed after 49 days in charge.
However, Sanchez Flores has failed to get Al Ain’s season back on track, winning six of 16 top-flight matches to leave the club eighth in the standings.
The past few weeks have been particularly difficult to bear, with last Friday’s 1-0 defeat at Al Nasr stretching Al Ain’s unenviable sequence to one victory in the past six rounds.
Immediately following the Nasr defeat, Sanchez Flores said his players were struggling to cope with the pressure of playing in the league, and that they would instead focus on the upcoming Asian Champions League campaign. Al Ain begin their Group C assignment on Wednesday against Lekhwiya, the Qatari side. Also, in May, they contest the final of the President’s Cup.
Despite Sanchez Flores claiming on Friday that Al Ain were in a “transitional year” and reiterating that he would endeavour to lift his squad from their malaise, all signs point to the Al Ain board moving forward with another coach.
The National understands that Sanchez Flores, who has 18 months left on his contract, is in the process of settling his compensation package. Al Ain are believed to have already approached Zlatko Dalic, the Croatian who last coached in Saudi Arabia with Al Hilal. Should he be appointed, he will have until the end of the season to prove his suitability to the role.
Al Ain officials were unavailable for comment.
It marks another twist in a tumultuous seven months for Al Ain, whose season was thrown into disarray last July when they lost Cosmin Olaroiu, the architect of successive league titles, to rivals Al Ahli.
Fossati’s subsequent appointment was ill-advised, with Sanchez Flores then taking the reins four matches into the league programme. Yet he adopted a squad significantly behind their competitors in terms of match fitness.
On Friday, when asked if the players were behind Sanchez Flores, Alex Brosque, their Australian forward, said: “100 per cent. He came in under very difficult circumstances, so we fully back what he’s doing. We’re enjoying training and we’re enjoying what message he’s trying to pass onto us in what he wants us to do.
“We’ve looked at a lot of statistics on how we’re playing this year compared to last year and a lot of things are actually positive, so it’s just that results aren’t going our way at the moment. That’s the frustrating thing. But we’re all 100 per cent behind the coach; we don’t think he’s at fault at all. It’s just us players that need to take responsibility.”