Abu Dhabi // Franky Vercauteren last night insisted he joined Al Jazira for football reasons and not the money.
The Belgian was officially unveiled as the club's new coach at their Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium after he left Racing Genk, who he led to a title last season, in the middle of their Champions League qualifier with Maccabi Haifa.
That decision prompted heavy criticism in his homeland and the 54-year-old felt the need to defend himself amid allegations that his sole motive for choosing Abu Dhabi was the reported Dh10 million he would receive for a contract that is initially for a year.
Asked by The National why he turned his back on the chance to test himself on European football's grandest stage, Vercauteren said: "There are several reasons, but it is too early to talk about that. I will do so over the next few days.
"There are a few reasons and they are at a sporting level. It is not because of finances, which a lot of people have said in the Belgian press. I am not here for the money. Let me make that clear that is not a priority.
"The Champions League is what it is, however, Al Jazira offered me other things.
"This is going to be an incredible experience and I hope that I am here for longer than one year. That is my goal. I want to have a good life in Abu Dhabi, which I think I will, and that will help make me a better coach."
Vercauteren has been joined by his assistant, Hugo Broos, who was his manager at Anderlecht, and the new goalkeeping coach, David Coles, who was with West Ham United in England last season.
The coach acknowledged it would be difficult to build on the work completed by predecessor, Abel Braga, who won two trophies last season, and was keen to praise the Brazilian.
"The ambition of a big club is always to do better and the players told me that they want to improve," Vercauteren said. "But it would be stupid of me to change everything the previous coach did because he did so well and I have to congratulate him for that. There is a good based here.
"But we cannot live in the past. We must look to the future and get better each day and that will not be easy because the team were so successful last season. I want them to be hungry.
"We want to win again and do well in the Asian Champions League. What I will demand from my players is 100 per cent and, if they give me that, then I'll be happy."
Phil Anderton, the Al Jazira chief executive, said he was "thrilled and delighted" to have such a respected European coach at the club.
He hinted Vercauteren could be allowed to bring in more foreign talent, which would mean at least one of the existing overseas players moving on, if he felt the need.
The Belgian has already been active, having been the driving force behind the capture of Lucas Neill, who is set to be unveiled tonight.
And there will be one familiar face waiting for him when the season starts.
"Diego Maradona [the Al Wasl coach] beat Belgium all on his own in the 1986 World Cup semi-final when I played," he said. "He was just too strong for our whole team.
"But I did beat him a few times as a player, including the 1982 World Cup opening match, although when we meet it will be about the two teams, there will not be a game within the game."