ABU DHABI // Caio Junior replaced Franky Vercautern as Al Jazira coach today and immediately set his sights on winning the Asian Champions League (ACL).
The Brazilian, 47, was unveiled by the Pro League champions as they revealed that Vercauteren had been dismissed – just seven months after taking over – because of a breakdown of his relationship with the players.
“We had no choice,” said Hamad Al Suwaidi, the head of the club’s professional committee. “Vercauteren did not get along with the players. We tried to find harmony but failed. We had to change.”
The Belgian, who yesterday saw Jazira show fighting spirit to recover to recover from two goals down and record a 4-2 win in their opening ACL match against Nasaf Qarshi in Uzbekistan, has been dismissed along with all of his back-room staff, except David Coles, the English goalkeeping coach.
The dismissal of Vercautern is the 58th managerial change since the league turned professional in 2008.
With Jazira still in with a chance of winning all the four competitions they are involved in, Caio Junior believes they can take home some silverware this season.
“All competitions are important,” said Caio Junior, who has extensive experience of management in Brazil and spent two years with Al Gharafa, the Qatar Stars League side Al Gharafa.
“Jazira are the kind of club who should win every competition they enter. Al Sadd [the Qatari side] won the Champions League last season. I hope Jazira can follow them.
“I came close to winning the ACL with Al Gharafa but we lost an epic match with Al Hilal [two goals in the final three minutes of extra time in 2010 saw the Saudi side win 5-4 on aggregate in a quarter-final].”
Caio Junior’s first match in charge will be an Etisalat Cup semi-final against Al Shabab in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The club are also in the semi-finals of the President’s Cup and sit third in the Pro League, seven points behind the leaders, Al Ain, with eight games left.
“Any minute a coach takes his team on to the pitch, he is responsible,” said the Brazilian, who was celebrating his birthday yesterday. “However, I am not a magician. Do not suspect any surprise [on Sunday]. We have plenty of time to prepare for the ACL though.”
Elaborating on the club’s reasons for changing coach in midseason, Al Suwaidi said: “The decision was not made on results, we don’t work this way. It was about harmony. It is not usual for Jazira to change a coach midseason.
“We have been looking for a new coach for three weeks. It is difficult to do this midseason. We had a number of names on a shortlist, but settled on Caio Junior a week ago. He has experience in the Gulf and has also played against Jazira.”
Al Suwaidi said the new manager is contracted until the end of the season, with the option to renew at the end of the campaign.
Ayed Mabkhout, Jazira’s first-team manager, said that the club had not been impressed with the way the team had performed this season.
“In previous seasons, even when Jazira lost, the team always played well,” he said. “However, this season, even when winning, the team were not performing. Vercauteren could not get a long run of wins together. We tried for solutions but none were found.”
Jazira have already lost four league games this season, compared to just one in 2010/11.
Vercauteren, 54, arrived at Jazira in August from the Belgian team Genk, whom he had guided to the group stages of the Uefa Champions League. His two-year contract was reported to be worth Dh36 million.
He filled the position initially vacated by Abel Braga, the Brazilian who returned to home in the summer after winning the league, and then Alejandro Sabella, the Argentine, who left before taking charge of a game after being offered his national team job.
Caio Junior is hoping his experience of Gulf football and the fact he faced Jazira three times in the ACL will help him settle quickly.
“This is a very important time of the season,” he said. “A few days ago I was in Brazil negotiating. I always dreamed of coaching a big team like Jazira. I have a good idea of the Pro League and know the ambitions of the club. Jazira have good players who know how to handle the ball."