x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Al Jazira 'respect' Sabella's decision to coach Argentina

Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Abu Dhabi club chairman, takes on the task of finding a suitable replacement for the new Argentina coach.

ABU DHABI // Al Jazira are "philosophical" about Alejandro Sabella's decision to turn his back on them for the Argentina national team job, a club spokesman said on Saturday.

The official stressed that the club main's focus over the next week is not to demand compensation from the Argentina Football Association (AFA) or even gain an apology from Sabella, who did not take a single training session before breaking the contract he signed last month.

Rather, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Jazira chairman, has personally taken on the task of appointing a new coach of a similar calibre as soon as possible.

"Sabella was given the opportunity to manage his country and we, as a club, must respect and understand his decision," the spokesman said. "We wish him well with Argentina.

"This is, after all, one of the best teams in international football with Lionel Messi … the best player in the world, so it's not as if Sabella turned us down for a small club. It says a lot for Al Jazira's ambition that we appointed a man who is deemed good enough to coach such a powerful football nation.

"He has gone to something bigger and better, so we are philosophical about the past week's events."

The spokesman said that the chairman is believed to be working from a shortlist of candidates who were considered before Sabella was hired.

The AFA may have to pay compensation to Jazira, the league and President's Cup champions, but that will be dealt with in private, the spokesman said.

"The chairman, I believe, has spoken to the AFA, although I am unsure whether Sabella has been in contact with the club," the spokesman said. "All we want to do now is move forward, get in a new coach, and then defend our two trophies next season. ... The most important thing is getting the squad ready."

One man who is unlikely to be on his way to Abu Dhabi is Sergio Batista, the man who left the Argentina job last Monday following their quarter-final exit in the Copa America, despite being linked with the post.

Luis Felipe Scholari, the manager of Palmeiras in Brazil, is another who was mentioned but is not on the club's list.

Luis Antonio, the coach of the under 19 team, has been taking charge of training since the players reported back over the weekend.

Sabella is expected to speak publicly for the first time about his decision in the next 48 hours.

ncameron@thenational.ae