As one more season of struggle comes to a close at Al Wasl, a major reconstruction operation begins again.
The Dubai club, once the UAE’s most cherished, heralded another new dawn on Tuesday, formally introducing Laurent Banide as their latest manager and immediately designating the occasion the beginning of an ambitious 10-year plan.
The club’s board of directors, chaired by Abdullah Hareb, cited an emphasis on youth-team development – there were three 17-year-old graduates sent to the senior set-up during 2012/13 – while also declaring the need to attract the obligatory “star names” to ensure Wasl once more challenge for titles. It has been too long since the 2007 league and cup double.
“We wish and we hope to win trophies, but it’s a matter of steps and we need everybody to work together to progress,” said Hareb as he sat alongside Banide at the Zabeel Stadium. “I cannot promise the winning of the title, but we will work towards that.”
With Banide, Hareb said, they have chosen a coach with Pro League experience – the Frenchman recently guided Al Dhafra to eighth – who shares an identical vision.
He has been provided two years to implement it. Given that Wasl are now on manager No 5 since dispensing with Diego Maradona last July, Banide will recognise the apparent improbability of seeing out his contract.
Hareb, though, rightfully reminded that he and his board have held their position only for 10 weeks. “This is our third month, and we know what goes on here,” the chairman said.
“That’s why we’re trying to plan for the future. I hope we are better than the time of Maradona, as it will make it easier for us.
“We’ve been through a difficult period these past few months,” he continued. “But we’re confident we have the right coach to lead our team forward.”
The composition of that side will differ greatly from the season just past. The foreign contingent that concluded the campaign – Ahmed Ibrahim, Emiliano Alfaro, Achille Emana and Jussie – will each return to their parent clubs, with only Mariano Donda, the injured Argentine playmaker, retained.
Banide’s first task is to evaluate his resources, predominantly the Emirati players. The former Monaco coach, 45, has merely a watching brief tonight as Wasl bring their season to a close against Baniyas, with his work beginning in earnest on July 1.
He concedes the difficulty of the assignment, yet insists the opportunity to restore Wasl to former glory was too good to reject.
“Al Wasl are a very famous club, one of the best-known in the UAE and the Gulf,” Banide said.
“They’ve won lots of honours and championships, and now have a very good infrastructure to achieve their objectives.
“That was the main reason for accepting the job. But we all need to work together. During the next few weeks, I’ll decide the shortages in the squad and resolve to fix them.
“We know the mission is not easy, but I’ll put in place the best mechanisms to achieve success. The best answer for this is work, work, work.”
Banide said an emphasis will be placed on recruiting players who can adapt easily, hinting there could be attempts to hire those who excelled for him at Dhafra.
Makhete Diop, the Senegalese striker, should top any wish list. Possessing the right mentality is another coveted characteristic.
“We’re looking for those who will benefit the team,” said Hareb, who also revealed the club will investigate four offers from Europe for housing their summer training camp. Wasl already have in place training agreements with Porto, the Portuguese champions, and Athletic Bilbao, the Spanish Primera Liga side.
“If we want to be successful, the four foreign players must be star names,” Hareb said. “We have to bring in star names to help the coach increase the level of the team.”
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