x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Al Ahli confirm O'Leary as manager

The Dubai club confirms David O'Leary, the former Leeds United and Aston Villa manager, as their new coach.

O'Leary, who has not worked in management since leaving Villa in 2006, is tasked with restoring Ahli, who last won the UAE league title two seasons ago, to the top of the game here.
O'Leary, who has not worked in management since leaving Villa in 2006, is tasked with restoring Ahli, who last won the UAE league title two seasons ago, to the top of the game here.

Dubai // David O'Leary, the manager who oversaw a run by Leeds United, the English club, to the semi-final of the Uefa Champions League in 2001, has been installed as the coach of Al Ahli. The Irishman, who has been out of management since he left Aston Villa in 2006, beat some impressive competition to secure the post at the ambitious Dubai club. Mark Hughes and Sam Allardyce, managers with a strong pedigree in the English Premier League, had both been linked to the vacant position by the British press. Marcello Lippi, the outgoing Italy coach, was also said to be in talks with the club over reprising his successful partnership with Fabio Cannavaro, his Italy captain. However, Ahli confirmed O'Leary's arrival just before introducing Cannavaro, their new captain, at Mina A'Salaam in Dubai yesterday. Mark Bell, the sporting director of the club, said: "We can confirm that David O'Leary, a former Premier League manager with Champions League experience, has agreed to become the new coach of Al Ahli Football Club." According to Bell, the signings of Cannavaro and now O'Leary are just part of the club's grand plan for returning to the top of UAE football. Ahli were champions two seasons ago, but they suffered an alarming slide last term during a campaign which saw the club use four coaches in a single season.

Ioan Andone, the Romanian, was in the hot seat at the start of 2009/10, but was dismissed after a string of poor results, leaving Mahdi Ali, the UAE Under 20 coach, with the task of preparing the team for the globally prominent Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, in December. He soon returned to the national team fold after Ahli lost out to Auckland City, the part-timers from New Zealand. Henk ten Cate, the former Ajax manager, arrived in February but had left by March. Despite his brief stay, he still had time to experience what he deemed "the worst day" of his career, when his side went down 5-0 to Qatar's Al Sadd in the Asian Champions League. Nouraldine al Obaidi, a Tunisian, was then put in caretaker charge until the end of the season. The club began rebuilding two months ago when Bell was brought in from England by the chairman of Al Ahli's board of directors, Abdullah al Naboodah, to serve as sporting director. His first act was to recruit Cannavaro, the former Juventus, Inter Milan and Real Madrid centre-back. O'Leary, 52, is the latest piece of the jigsaw. Bell said: "We are investing in quality in every department. New coaching staff are coming in, and the facilities for training, medical care and sports science are being greatly improved. Al Ahli has always been a top-flight, quality club in UAE football. Now we aim to be a club fans of all backgrounds will want to come to see." As well as Lippi, Cannavaro reportedly was to be joined in Dubai by Alessandro del Piero, his veteran former Juve teammate. However, Bell quashed that rumour, as he said: "I can categorically say that is not true." O'Leary is expected to join up with his new side for their pre-season training trip to Austria, which starts on Wednesday. pradley@thenational.ae