x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League: 'Fresh ideas' of Ivan Jovanovic can rejuvenate Al Nasr

Serb to succeed Walter Zenga as manager of Dubai-based football club. Ahmed Rizvi reports.

Ivan Jovanovic guided APOEL to three league titles and led the Cypriot club to Champions League three times. Jack Guez / AFP
Ivan Jovanovic guided APOEL to three league titles and led the Cypriot club to Champions League three times. Jack Guez / AFP

DUBAI //Al Nasr are banking on Ivan Jovanovic to reinvigorate the team with "fresh ideas" and put the club back in contention for championships.

After looking at a number of candidates like Bernd Schuster, Dan Petrescu and Mano Menezes over the past couple of weeks, Nasr have finally settled on Serbian Jovanovic, who left Cypriot club APOEL last month after five hugely successful seasons.

The 50 year old guided APOEL to three league titles since joining the club for a second time in 2008. He also won three Cypriot Super Cup and a Cypriot Cup in that period, and led the team to the Uefa Champions League twice, making it to the group stages in 2009/10 and reaching the quarter-finals two years later, when they lost to Real Madrid.

In his first stint at APOEL, from 2003 to 2005, he had one league title and a Cypriot Super Cup win. He was named as the Serbian Coach of the Year in 2011, and took the same honour in Cyprus six times.

"He is a very good coach with a long list of achievements," said Fahad Hadi, a board member at Nasr. "We are really happy to have him on board and wish him success."

Starting his coaching career at Greek club Niki Volos in 2001, Jovanovic has only worked in two countries – Greece and Cyprus. That, however, will not be a disadvantage, according to Hadi, because he will bring a fresh perspective.

"We always prefer to get a manager that we feel can bring fresh ideas to the club," Hadi said. "After the last season, we believe the team needed a change, a fresh perspective and that is what Jovanovic brings. And don't forget his amazing list of achievements."

Jovanovic will take over the reins of a team, who finished sixth in the league last season after taking the second and third spots in the previous two years. The team's disappointing finish led to coach Walter Zenga and the club parting ways by "mutual agreement".

With the coach in place now, Nasr will start their hunt for foreign pros to strengthen the team. They have renewed Leonardo Lima's contract for two more seasons and striker Bruno Cesar remains on the books, but the club is looking at alternatives.

Japanese striker Takayuki Morimoto has finished his six-month loan spell and returned to Catania, while Italian Giuseppe Mascara has also returned home after the end of his one-year deal.

Nasr have been negotiating with French club Monaco to bring former Ajman striker Ibrahima Toure back to the Arabian Gulf League, but the Senegalese is keen to continue in France.

"Ibrahima Toure is one of the options," Hadi said. "If we can get him, he is a very good striker. But again, we are not negotiating with Ibrahima Toure alone. We are looking at more than one player and we hope we can get the best for the Nasr fans.

"We are looking for some good players. We will consult with the manager and see what he wants, players in which positions, and then we will decide accordingly."

On the Emirati front, Nasr have renewed the contracts of Badr Yaqoot, Jamal Ibrahim, Khamis Ahmed, Khalifa Mubarak and Helal Saeed, and brought in midfielders Tariq Ahmed and Ali Hussein from Al Ahli.

The club have also promoted six players – goalkeeper Ibrahim Eissa, defender Hussein Abbas, midfielders Hamad Ali and Rashid Jalal, strikers Abdullah Musa and Majid Shahin – from their academy to the first team on the recommendation of their former technical advisor Sven Goran-Eriksson, who left last month to join Chinese club Guangzhou R&F as coach.

"These seven players have been handpicked by Sven Goran Eriksson, who had been monitoring them since he came here," Hadi said. "They were part of our Under-19 squad and we hope they will be a big asset to the team and will support us in the next season.

"We are not planning just for just the next season, but we have a plan for the next coming three years maybe. We want to bring a strong team and challenge for the championships. This is our aim and we will try to get them.

"These objectives will be given to the manager by the technical committee."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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