They had finished the 2012/13 season in a rush, won the President's Cup, have a crack corps of Emiratis, were bringing back Grafite and Luis Jimenez, and had added the Portuguese midfielder Hugo Viana.
Overseeing all of this: Quique Sanchez Flores, the dapper Spanish coach who had added 19 months of UAE experience to his CV, and had shaped this side to his liking. Ahli were looking formidable. Before noon Tuesday.
At a meeting with media, who fully expected word of the coach's new contract, Sanchez Flores instead announced his immediate departure, and walked out of the room, seeming to take 19 months of Ahli momentum with him.
The season remains nearly three months away, but Ahli will need much of that time recovering from the shock. After winning the league in 2009, the club blew through seven coaches: Ioan Andone, Mahdi Ali, Henk ten Cate, Nouraldine Al Obaidi, David O'Leary, Abdulhameed Al Mishtiki and Ivan Hasek. Sanchez Flores, finally, brought stability and upward mobility.
Stability just walked out the door.
Abdullah Al Naboodah, the club chairman, concedes finding a coach as good as Sanchez Flores will be difficult. The new man will face a crowded fixture list, including the Asian Champions League, and heightened expectations.
Before noon Tuesrday, it seemed doable.
Now? Given Ahli's failure rate with coaches, pre-Sanchez Flores, it looks a bit like mission impossible.
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