x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League: Al Ain opt for Abel Braga to become new coach

Former Al Jazira coach will take over from Cosmin Olaroiu at UAE football champions.

Abel Braga was Al Jazira coach for three seasons. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National
Abel Braga was Al Jazira coach for three seasons. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National

Al Ain have appointed Abel Braga as their new manager, concluding the reigning UAE champions’ search for a successor to Cosmin Olaroiu.

Confirmation of Braga’s selection is expected to be made public today.

The former Al Jazira coach agreed to a two-year deal and a club official confirmed that the Brazilian has been hired to lead the Garden City side in next season’s rebranded Arabian Gulf League.

Al Ain have been linked with a number of high-profile managers since Olaroiu decided earlier this month to join Al Ahli, their Dubai rivals, and it is believed they were negotiating with Braga and Uruguayan coach Jorge Fossati, until this weekend. Quique Sanchez Flores, Ahli’s manager last season, was also considered.

Braga arrives at the club following a prosperous period with Fluminense, whom he led to the 2012 Brazilian Serie A title. The Rio de Janeiro-based side are currently fifth in the table.

In choosing Braga, Al Ain have met their main criterion of attracting a coach with experience in Gulf football, given that the 60 year old guided Jazira to unprecedented success in 2010/11.

Then, Braga concluded a three-year spell at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium by securing a league and President’s Cup double - the club’s first. The previous season, he presided over Jazira’s Etisalat Cup triumph.

However, immediately following that success, Braga accepted the opportunity to return to Brazil with Fluminense, and he was expected to remain in his homeland for the remainder of his career.

“At Fluminense, I can be close to my family,” Braga said in May 2011. “It was a job that opened up and suits me well.”

Al Ain sought to have a new manager in place by the time the players reported for pre-season training on Monday.

Although Olaroiu’s departure was for weeks the subject of much speculation, the club had not actively pursued any potential replacements until they were informed of the Romanian’s decision to defect to Ahli.

Olaroiu, who had a year still to run on his Al Ain contract, had been offered an extension on improved terms.
Braga’s subsequent recruitment can be viewed as a shrewd one, though, as he is a well-respected coach, having managed a collection of Brazil’s most established clubs.

Among them are Vasco da Gama and Flamengo, while Braga enjoyed three different spells at Internacional, where in his last stretch in 2006, he helped them to the Copa Libertadores crown.

Braga has also spent time coaching in European football, first in Portugal with Famalicao, Belenenses and Vitoria de Setubal, while in 2000, he managed for a brief phase at Marseille, the nine-time French champions.

Braga’s first task will be to evaluate the Al Ain squad, with a club source suggesting last week that, of their foreign contingent, only Asamoah Gyan is certain to be retained. However, the other expatriates - Alex Brosque, Jires Kembo-Ekoko and Mirel Radoi - have contracts until next summer.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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