x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Al Jazira to unveil manager Franky Vercauteren on Sunday and Lucas Neill

The Belgian coach is already in Abu Dhabi, having left former club Genk, while Neill, the Australia captain, will fill the Asian player spot in Jazira's squad.

Lucas Neil, the Australian international and former West Ham United and Blackburn Rovers defender, was released by Turkish side Galatasaray at the end of last season.
Lucas Neil, the Australian international and former West Ham United and Blackburn Rovers defender, was released by Turkish side Galatasaray at the end of last season.

ABU DHABI // Franky Vercauteren will be officially unveiled as Al Jazira's coach tomorrow after he quit Racing Genk of Belgium a week earlier than expected. And defender Lucas Neill, the Australian international team captain, has agreed a one-year deal with the UAE champions and is expected to arrive in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Vercauteren, 54, will be introduced at a press conference tomorrow evening, sources said, and the club will confirm Neill’s capture on Monday at the latest.

Jazira moved for Vercauteren, a highly rated legend of Belgian football who helped the county to fourth place in the 1986 World Cup, when first choice Alejandro Sabella became the Argentina national coach.

Vercauteren arrived in Abu Dhabi on Thursday night after the decision was made to prematurely end his contract with Genk.

It had been expected that he would remain with the Belgian champions for next week’s second leg of a Champions League qualifier against Maccabi Haifa.

It was reported last week that Vercauteren, who has agreed a two-year contract with Jazira worth a reported Dh36 million ($US9.8m), would take charge for both games against the Israelis as a thank-you to the club who did not stand in his way of moving to Jazira.

A win for Genk would put them into the group stages of the tournament and guarantee revenue of Dh60m. Genk scored a precious away goal in Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat, so the tie is very much alive and that meant it was expected that Vercauteren would remain with the club he led to a championship in May for one more game.

But that has changed and last night he was expected to meet his new squad for the first time.

Joining those ranks at the start of next week will be Neill, a former West Ham United and Blackburn Rovers defender. He will fill the club’s one permitted Asian player spot as part of the “three-plus-one” rules set out by the Asian Football Confederation, allowing teams to sign four foreigners, with one coming from Asia.

And, according to Fifa, Australasia counts as Asia in this matter.

The 24-year-old Neill was voted a man-of-the-match in Australia’s 2-1 win over Wales in Cardiff last week, and was without a club since parting ways with Turkish side Galatasaray last season. However, he has been working on his own so will not be far behind his teammates, if at all, in terms of preparation.

“I did some extensive training near Milan for a couple of weeks,” Neill said last week.

“I locked myself in a boot camp and have been training to a programme for well over a month, so I am confident I have the fitness levels to get through a game.”

He joins fellow Socceroo Mark Bresciano in the UAE. Bresciano this month sealed a switch from Italian Serie A side Lazio to Al Nasr.

Neill was linked with a move back to the A-League in his homeland but has chosen to have one more footballing adventure before returning to Australia.

The natural centre-half, who can also play at full-back, has been capped 73 times and began his time in England with Millwall, before moving to Blackburn, West Ham and then Everton where he only played 12 games.

Neill played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups for Australia.

“I still have a lot of football left in me, and I am looking for a fresh challenge,” he said after the friendly game in Wales. “I have some interesting options open to me, and I will choose the one that is best for me career.”

New coaches in UAE football

Al Ahli Ivan Hasek (Czech Republic)
Al Ain Cosmin Olaroui (Romania)
Al Jazira Franky Vercauteren (Belgium)
Al Wasl Diego Maradona (Argentina)
Baniyas Jorvan Viera (Brazil)
Dubai Clawzon Ronaldo (Argentina)
Sharjah Carlos Azenha (Portugal)

Retained coaches

Ajman Abdul Wahab Abdul Kader (Iraq)
Al Nasr Walter Zenga (Italy)
Al Shabab Paulo Bonamigo (Brazil )
Al Wahda Josef Hickersberger (Austria)
Emirate Ghazi Ghrairi (Tunisia)

ncameron@thenational.ae


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