x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A quiet intensity at Zabeel Stadium

Bruno Metsu may cut a more serene figure than Diego Maradona, his perennially agitated predecessor, but the players will realise, in terms of getting in shape for an elongated Pro League season, some stormy weather lies ahead.

Bruno Metsu cuts a serene figure. Karim Jaafar / AFP
Bruno Metsu cuts a serene figure. Karim Jaafar / AFP

And so it begins; after the storm comes the calm. Bruno Metsu arrived in Dubai on Monday to begin his two-year contract at Al Wasl, yet there was no lavish press conference in a luxury hotel on Palm Jumeirah, no screaming fans gatecrashing the ballroom to chant from the balcony at a football icon.

The Diego Maradona adventure adventure is officially over; the clamour that submerged the club for 14 madcap months has come to an end.

You get the impression Wasl, the new board eager to close the most intriguing chapter in the club's storied history, would not want it any other way.

Metsu introduced himself to his assembled squad on Tuesday night under the floodlights of the Zabeel Stadium, players gathered on a stifling evening to sneak any possible insight into how their new coach will operate.

Ramadan dictates training runs past the witching hour, and Metsu, pacing the centre circle throughout, had prepared the most ghoulish of sessions.

A heavy set of passing drills was quickly followed by a series of short matches involving three nine-a-side teams, with Mariano Donda, the club's last remaining Argentine, influential throughout.

Tricks and flicks were the order of the day from players in brightly coloured boots, each determined to stand out. There is a new mentor to impress, remember.

Metsu, appearing relaxed in black tracksuit trousers and a white short-sleeved T-shirt, coaxed and cajoled, before returning to his stroll, arms resting behind his back, whistle, hardly used, in hand.

He could easily have been back ambling along the Nice promenade, where in the early 80s he enjoyed two seasons with the French club as a player.

An incisive pass or a piece of skill, to which he portrayed his approval with a loud clap on his chest, would sometimes startle Metsu. Otherwise, this was a man carefully surveying his resources.

It was left to one of Metsu's assistants, who is also new to the club, to demand more from the players as they concluded with running and stretching a particularly rigorous first training session.

Wasl, because of what has gone before this summer regarding Maradona, are far behind their rivals in terms of fitness and preparation, something Metsu obviously recognises.

The Frenchman may cut a more serene figure than his perennially agitated predecessor, but the players will realise, in terms of getting in shape for an elongated Pro League season, some stormy weather lies ahead, after all.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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