x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League: Ivan Jovanovic to script Al Nasr's path

As the Serbian readies his plans to bring the side to a top-three finish in the coming season, he also asks for something few coaches have been afforded in the UAE. Patience. John McAuley writes.

At his introductory news conference, Ivan Jovanovic asked for time in bringing success to Al Nasr.
At his introductory news conference, Ivan Jovanovic asked for time in bringing success to Al Nasr.

DUBAI // Ivan Jovanovic, Al Nasr's new manager, has asked for patience as he plots the club's return to the top table of UAE football.

The Serbian was introduced on Tuesday at Al Maktoum Stadium having signed a two-year contract following his decision last month to conclude a hugely prosperous relationship with Apoel Nicosia, the Cypriot champions.

Jovanovic, 50, appeared relaxed throughout the news conference, answering questions via an interpreter, and was flanked by Ahmed Khouri, the Nasr vice-chairman.

The Dubai club's latest coach - he succeeds Walter Zenga, who parted company on June 1 - conceded he requires time to become familiar with his new side and the Arabian Gulf League, yet he vowed to do everything in his power to lift Nasr above their current position.

Last season they finished sixth, stretching to 27 years their wait for the league title.

However, having not yet evaluated his resources, Jovanovic was understandably reluctant to cast any immediate predictions.

"In football it's easy to give promises, but it's not easy to change things as fast as you want," he said. "So our main target is to create a better team than last year and be more competitive in order to build a strong relationship between myself and the team.

"We must change the mentality of the players to set better targets for the new championship. No one in football has a lot of time to achieve success, but we need to be patient and need to work hard.

"Al Nasr is a club that should be high [in the league] and everyone around the club should support it. I'll support in my role as manager. I can promise you I'll work very hard for the future of this team."

Nasr will hope his endeavours prove just as fruitful as at Apoel.

During two stints across seven years in Nicosia, Jovanovic guided the team to four league championships and five domestic cup trophies, while the club twice qualified for the Uefa Champions League.

Last year they progressed to the quarter-finals before being eliminated by Real Madrid.

"I worked for Apoel for six years and in that time they achieved most of our targets," Jovanovic said.

"But it came to a time that I couldn't ask for more from the players, so therefore I was either going to change all of them for those who are hungry to achieve things, or leave. And I chose something different.

"I'm very happy to sign for Al Nasr. It's a different environment, different league and a big challenge and motivation for me as a coach.

"I needed this motivation and this change in my career, and I'll meet those challenges because, when the coach has motivation, he can inspire the players as well.

"Apoel has its place in my heart, where I lived very happy moments the past six years. Now I wish I'll live these happy moments in Al Nasr."

Jovanovic leaves the UAE today to resolve a few final details at home before taking residence here next month. He will be in constant dialogue with the club regarding potential signings, with Nasr keen to strengthen their foreign contingent. As of now, only Brazilian Leonardo Lima is assured one of the four expatriate spots for the 2013/14 campaign.

"I've already had discussions with the board about new players, but we can't make any specific announcement at this time," said Jovanovic, who has watched only a few recordings of his new side. "We've enough time ahead of us during the next months."

Jovanovic's arrival was warmly received by Khouri, who highlighted the manager's success at Apoel as reason for offering him the position. He was Cypriot Coach of the Year six times.

"Every club has its own ambitions to win games and tournaments," Khouri said. "Ivan wants to better the team, to challenge for the top three and he's putting his plan together. But he needs his time. There is no rush; there has been a long-term plan shared with us, we fully support it and I wish him all the best to be able to execute it."

 

FACT FILE ON IVAN JOVANOVIC

X-Born in Dojnica in 1962, a city in the former Yugoslavia, he joined his hometown club aged 10 and spent the next 12 years there.

X-The midfielder was a key component in FK Rad achieving their best finish in the Yugoslav top flight – fourth in 1988/89. It was his final season with the capital club.

X-After five seasons in Belgrade, he upped sticks for Greece, and was soon regarded as one of Iraklis FC’s best imports. He made 271 league appearances, scoring 52 times.

X-His first coaching role came two years after he hung up his boots, in 2001 with Greek side Niki Volou. He guided them to promotion to the third division.

X-After his Apoel Nicosia side were defeated by Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the 2009 Uefa Champions League, opposite number Jose Mourinho remarked: “I’m sure I wouldn’t do much better than Jovanovic on this team.”

X-Should things not work out at Al Nasr, don’t rule against him coming back in the future - Jovanovic has twice managed both Iraklis and Apoel.

 

jmcauley@thenational.ae

 

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