DUBAI // Walter Zenga believes the decision to remove him was taken "months ago" by the Al Nasr management and he would have been asked to leave even if the team had finished second in the Pro League.
Zenga and Nasr decided to part ways by "mutual consent" on Saturday, with a year still remaining on the coach's contract. The club said the decision was based on the recommendations of the technical committee and came following a "comprehensive evaluation" of Zenga's performance in the last season.
The Italian, however, thinks otherwise.
"I think the decision was ready months ago and it has nothing to do with the [Pro League] order at the end of the season," Zenga said, speaking to Arabic daily Al Bayan. "Even if Nasr had finished in second place, I would have met the same fate."
Though he was expecting the decision, Zenga was surprised when it eventually came, because a day before he was discussing the team's programme for the off-season. The goalkeeping legend was disappointed.
"I was hoping to stay until the end of my contract with Al Nasr and achieve the dreams I had for the team," he said. "But still, I think I have spent three wonderful and enjoyable seasons with Nasr and lived moments that I cannot describe in words.
"We succeeded in leading the team to the Champions League for the first time in their history and we did it twice in a row. We achieved the best position in the league for Al Nasr is more than 10 years and earned the respect of the other clubs. They were afraid to face us. So I can be proud of what I have achieved here."
Nasr's management has also praised Zenga for his achievements with in his first two seasons with the team, when they finished third and second in the league and qualified for Asia. But last season, they finished sixth in the Pro League, 23 points behind champions Al Ain.
"It is true that Zenga achieved a lot of success with the team in his first two seasons and earned the confidence of our fans," said Abdullah Al Bannai, chief of Nasr's technical committee. "But the team experienced a lot of difficulties in the last season, and Zenga did not achieve the desired goals."
Zenga, however, defended his performance last season and said the difference between his first two seasons and the last was the final four league matches.
"There was no difference except the results in the last four rounds," he said. "We lost those last four matches. Had we won those four matches, like the previous seasons, we would have finished with 51 points and thus, second place."
Talking about his future, Zenga said he had received several offers in recent months and turned them down because he wanted to continue with Nasr.
"I refused to even discuss those offers because I had only Al Nasr on my mind and I wanted to honour my contract," he said. "But I can leave with my head held high. I can leave with a lot of self-confidence because I have given many things to Al Nasr.
"I am sad, as well, because I have not been able to complete the job I had come here for, but I will go and realise those dreams with another team."
Zenga, 53, had a penalty clause in his contract, worth US$500,000 (Dh1.835 million) according to some reports, but agreed to walk away by "mutual consent" because he did not want his "great love for Al Nasr to end in the corridors of Fifa".
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