x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

If only Al Ahli had listened to David O'Leary

O'Leary wanted Cannavaro, the ageing Pinga and the holding midfielder Karim El Ahmadi replaced by attacking players, and that is precisely what Ahli have done — at the cost of a season.

No one expected a long run from Fabio Cannavaro. When a footballer is 37, his career is measured by matches, not years or even months.

But we did expect more than 16 league games and "thanks for the memories", and apparently he did, too.

He told the league website two weeks ago that he planned to play out his two-year contract with Al Ahli, but the club have signed three new foreigners, and that means the Italian will not play again, even if the club are being coy about making that clear.

It could be that he will take a back-room job with Ahli, but it seems more likely that the club have not yet sorted out a settlement for the aborted Cannavaro.

A fascinating aspect of Ahli's manoeuvres? They have done exactly what their former coach, David O'Leary, said they ought to do — except two months after they dismissed the Irishman in the first year of a three-year deal.

He wanted Cannavaro, the ageing Pinga and the holding midfielder Karim El Ahmadi replaced by attacking players, and that is precisely what Ahli have done, recruiting the Brazilian strikers Grafite and Jakson "JaJa" Coelho and the Chile international Luis Jimenez, an attacking midfielder.

Perhaps Ahli officials should have chatted with O'Leary about this a year ago. They now appear to have got it right, but it cost them another season of mediocrity and however many millions of dirhams they are spending to make Cannavaro, Pinga and O'Leary to go away.

 

sports@thenational.ae