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Cosmin Olaroiu during a match in his Al Ain days. Jaime Puebla / The National
Cosmin Olaroiu during a match in his Al Ain days. Jaime Puebla / The National

Tough ask at Al Ahli for the inside man and former Al Ain coach Olaroiu

The move suggests Olaroiu has set himself up for some stiff targets at the Rashed Stadium and dethroning Al Ain might be at the top of his wish list.

Cosmin Olaroiu has finally arrived at Al Ahli following his sensational switch from Al Ain, but judging from his "open letter" to the fans of his former club, it seems his heart might still be in the Garden City.

"Al Ain is the first Asian club where I spent two full seasons as head coach and I can firmly say this team has offered me some of my best professional years," Olaroiu wrote on Thursday. "The two back-to-back league titles and the UAE Super Cup we won together bear eloquent testimony to this great success.

"Sadly, as life has shown us over and over again, all good things must come to an end at some point. Unfortunately, a string of unexpected events and a series of mistakes made, that I could neither correct, nor influence, created this unwanted situation.

"As a result of these irreconcilable differences, I was forced to choose a different path in my career as a coach, to accept a more challenging project, leaving behind the great Al Ain family."

Reading this letter, Ahli fans might not seem too pleased. Olaroiu risked offending his fans in describing his move to Dubai as an "unwanted situation" and claiming he was "forced to choose a different path".

Over the next few days, he might find himself explaining that letter a few times.

The Ahli management have not to read too much into the text of Olaroiu's note to the Al Ain fans, confident that the Romanian was just trying to leave on the best possible terms. They have also presented the length of the new contract - three years - as proof of Olaroiu's commitment to his new job.

Ahli fans will realise that gradually as well, maybe as early as August 30 when his present and former clubs lock horns for honours in the season-opening Super Cup.

The President's Cup champions had offered Quique Sanchez Flores the "most lucrative contract in the club's history" to try and convince him to continue. In Olaroiu, they have the best possible replacement. Even unimaginable.

Yes, the Ahli deal, valued at 4 million (Dh 19.2m) a year, has made him the highest-paid Romanian coach in the world, but who could have imagined this switch at the end of last season?

Al Ain had reportedly offered him a matching deal, and anyway, how many other men would leave the certainty of a two-time league champions for the second-best?

The move, then, suggests Olaroiu has set himself up for some stiff targets at the Rashed Stadium and dethroning Al Ain might be at the top of his wish list. In his two seasons at Al Ain, the Romanian saw his team clinch the league title with four weeks to spare.

In the 2011-12 season, Ahli had finished 21 points behind the champions in fifth; Last season, they had moved up to second, but were still 11 points behind Al Ain.

Those numbers restate Al Ain's absolute domination in the last two seasons, but Olaroiu, with his intricate knowledge of his former club, could plot their downfall.

He has statistics on every Al Ain player and, at the end of last season, had spoken about making changes in the team.

Olaroiu knows the strengths and weaknesses of every team in the Arabian Gulf League, including Ahli. With many new coaches coming into the league, Olaroiu's knowledge should give his new team a head start when the league kicks off on September 3.

That is the reason Ahli have decided to pay him that kind of money, and that might also be the reason why Olaroiu decided to stay on in the country, annoying a few Al Ain fans in the bargain.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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