DUBAI // Diego Maradona has accepted a two-year contract to coach Al Wasl, the club have confirmed.
The World Cup winner and former coach of Argentina has accepted a deal to take charge of the Pro League club and he will be officially unveiled in a press conference early next month.
"Al Wasl Sports Club is proud to announce the appointment of Diego Armando Maradona as head coach of Al Wasl Football Club, in a momentous development that will see the football legend lead the team for the next two seasons," read a club statement.
Chairman Marwan Bin Bayat, who held negotiations with Maradona in Dubai at the weekend, said: “Al Wasl Sports Club has become synonymous with achievements of this calibre, and we are very pleased to be welcoming Maradona to a long line of accolades in the club’s history.
"This partnership embodies the vision of the club as it embraces forward thinking developments in the region to establish unprecedented standards for the sport.”
The capture of Maradona, 50, to replace Sergio Farias is a major coup for the club, who are currently fourth in the league, and signals the ambition of Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid, the club's owner, and Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed, the club's vice president.
Maradona, however, has strangely turned down an immediate opportunity to watch his new charges in action in the Pro League.The Dubai club take on Al Jazira tonight yet, according to Wasl’s Twitter feed, Maradona left Dubai yesterday. The news that Maradona will join the league will overshadow the title celebrations of Jazira who could clinch the crown tonight at the Zabeel Stadium.
Maradona initially arrived in the country, following his visit to the Chechen Republic for the inauguration of the Grozny Stadium to, according to a statement released by a PR consultancy firm hired by the club, “witness latest developments in a tour that includes Al Wasl Medical Centre and the recently implemented youth coaching programmes at Al Wasl Football Academy”.
However, the visit quickly turned into talks about the vacant coaching position which was created by the exit of Farias.
His appointment represents a dramatic U-turn by the club who announced last month they had already selected a “European” as a replacement for Sergio Farias.
“He is very well experienced in so many countries in Europe. You will know him,” Ashraf Ahmad Mohammad, the chief executive, said in a newspaper interview.
Maradona, who was named the Fifa Player of the Century, established himself as one of the greats of the game by playing in four World Cups for Argentina, including the 1986 tournament in Mexico when he inspired his country to the championship.
The 50-year-old has played in Italy and Spain but he has no coaching experience in Europe.
Kefah al Kaabi, a local football television analyst and former top-flight player, said he initially was sceptical that the Argentine would be coaching at Wasl.
He said he met Maradona while serving as a translator for him at the Aspire Sports Complex in Qatar.
“Maradona is here to make some international headlines for the club and the country, which is good,” al Kaabi said. “I doubt if he will stay as a coach with an Emirati club. He is a moody character and can change his mind an hour later. Such is his reputation.”
Wasl have already revamped their coaching team by hiring Antonio Amor Fernandez and Juan Carlos Buno on the recommendation of the former Barcelona technical director Albert Benaiges, who Wasl have recruited as their academy director on a five-year contract.
Like Benaiges, moving to Wasl represents a sizeable move down the coaching ladder for Maradona, who coached Argentina at last year’s World Cup.
The club have already made one South American swoop this season after announcing Edson Puch, the Chilean international midfielder, will join for the start of the 2011/12 season.