x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Arabian Gulf League: Al Ahli coach Olaroiu gets Grafite's nod of approval

Grafite regular in coach's office, discussing team and their training, acting as conduit between coach and players, writes John McAuley.

Al Ahli manager Cosmin Olaroiu took over at the club this summer after winning two straight titles with Al Ain. Satish Kumar / The National
Al Ahli manager Cosmin Olaroiu took over at the club this summer after winning two straight titles with Al Ain. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Grafite has praised the impact at Al Ahli of Cosmin Olaroiu, the club's new coach.

Olaroiu replaced Quique Sanchez Flores in the Rashid Stadium dugout at the beginning of last month, signing a three-year contract reported to be worth €4 million (Dh19m) annually.

The Romanian, 44, boasts an outstanding CV, having led Al Ain to the UAE league crown in the past two campaigns. He has quickly reinforced his reputation during training this pre-season, as Ahli prepare to embark on a quest for five trophies, beginning with this weekend's Super Cup tie against Al Ain.

"Cosmin's a different style to Quique – he puts a lot of emphasis on physical training but it's nothing major, just some little things," Grafite said. "The first impression of Cosmin is that he is very hard, because his face is very closed. But after working with him, you discover he's an amazing guy and a very good coach, who talks a lot to the players.

"Not only about the things on the pitch, but off it, too. He cares about the life of the players and this is important for us, to feel confidence from the coach. He is very professional.

"In that way, he is like Quique, but it's best not to change too much, because the buzz in the team is the same buzz from last year. I'm sure we'll continue in the same way, in a good way."

As captain, Grafite enjoys an especially close relationship with his latest manager. He is a regular in Olaroiu's office, discussing the team and their training, acting as a conduit between the coach and his players.

"It's good, because as captain, I need to be like a coach on the pitch," Grafite said. "It's very important to have communication between the coach and I, and the players and captain.

"The players respect me and I respect them also. And the coach trusts me to be captain not only during play, but in the dressing room."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE