ABU DHABI // Al Jazira directors held an emergency meeting last night to draw up a short-list of candidates to become their next head coach as Alejandro Sabella, their first-choice, looks to have performed a U-turn and was on the verge of being appointed the coach of the Argentina national team.
The league champions' faint hopes that the man appointed only on June 11 was still on his way to the capital city disappeared when the Argentine Football Association (AFA) dismissed the chances of Carlos Bianchi, the other main candidate for the job, succeeding Sergio Batista following his dismissal after Argentina's quarter-final exit in the Copa America.
"He has a lot of experience and he has had a lot of success, but at this time, I do not know that his profile is what we are looking for," Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, the AFA spokesma, said of Bianchi, paving the way for the former Estudiantes coach Sabella to take over the reins.
The Argentine was suppose to arrive in the UAE on Wednesday morning but, as The National revealed yesterday, he did not board his scheduled flight to Dubai after being contacted by AFA officials about the Argentina head coach position.
Ayed Mabkhout, the Al Jazira team manager, confirmed Sabella had not spoken to anyone at the club.
"Sabella has not contacted us so we still do not know 100 per cent whether he is still coming or whether he going with the Argentina national team," he said. "All I can say for sure is that he is supposed to be here in Abu Dhabi and he has not arrived.
"We are getting all the news from the media and that is frustrating."
Mabkhout said the club were now considering other candidates to lead the league and President Cup winners this season.
"We must move forward now. We have discussed a few names but it would be wrong to say who that was at this moment," he said. "Our hope is that we will have a new coach by this time next week. We have moved to Plan B."
The need to fill the void has become more pressing as most of Jazira's players return for pre-season training this weekend. The Emirati players not involved with the national team's preparations in India for the second leg of their World Cup qualifier tonight, reported back for training yesterday.
No doubt Jazira officials and players would not have expected the surprise about turn - their would-be coach walking out on them after six weeks having not taken charge of a single game - there was little they could do to stop Sabella when his country's football association called him a year after he thought the job was his following Diego Maradona's departure after last summer's World Cup.
Bianchi, 62, had been considered among the forerunners for the position. Having secured success with Velez Sarsfield and Boca Juniors during his managerial career, he is thought to have the backing of many fans in the country and expressed his desire to take on the role.
"My wishes to coach the Argentina national team are always the same and very big," he told the Telam news agency on Tuesday. "I think I have earned enough credit. The future will tell if I can have that honour.
"I only ask for the right to work with people I trust. I consider myself to have enough experience to do a professional job like I did throughout my career as a player and technical director."
However, with Sabella locked in talks yesterday with his potential bosses, Al Jazira's search to replace Abel Braga, the Brazilian who guided the club to their first ever domestic double last season, continues.