Two-time defending champions not giving up hope of hiring Abel Braga but are also keen on Jorge Fossati, writes John McAuley.
Arabian Gulf League: Managerial void at Al Ain starting to hinder club
Al Ain still retain ambitions of appointing Abel Braga as their manager, but a club official says they have two other coaches in mind as possible leaders for the 2013/14 season.
The UAE champions are searching for a successor to the Romanian Cosmin Olaroiu following his move earlier this month to Al Ahli, the team considered the biggest threat to Al Ain's recent domestic dominance.
Under Olaroiu, the Garden City club won successive league titles, and they expected he would accept their offer of an improved contract. However, the coach and club never finalised a deal, and he made a surprise move to Ahli.
Al Ain have spent the past three weeks attempting to recruit his replacement and until recently they were certain Braga represented that man. The former Al Jazira manager had travelled to the UAE to discuss a contract, although he then surprisingly reiterated his commitment to Fluminense, his current club.
However, Al Ain have not yet given up hope, with a club source suggesting Fluminense are holding out for an improved compensation package.
Braga situation at Fluminense may be shaky. The club has not started the season well; they are in 14th place after eight rounds. On Sunday they suffered a fourth consecutive defeat – beaten 3-1 at home by Vasco da Gama. After the match, Fluminense's director of football reaffirmed the club’s faith in Braga. This, though, may be only a ploy to strengthen the club's position should Al Ain attempt to break Braga from his contract.
If the Brazilian remains in his homeland, then Al Ain could again initiate negotiations with Jorge Fossati, the Uruguayan with substantial experience in the Gulf region. In 2011, he led Qatar's Al Sadd to the Asian Champions League crown.
Fossati had previously been approached, and was willing to sign a contract, only for Al Ain to aggressively pursue Braga. Other reported targets have included Quique Sanchez Flores, the former Ahli manager and Eric Gerets, the distinguished Belgian currently with Lekhwiya in Qatar.
Al Ain's players returned to pre-season training last week without a coach in place, with fears growing that the club's delay in hiring a coach could impair chances of a third straight top-flight title.
The technical committee, though, have sought to clarify the situation, stating they had drawn a list of five names immediately following Olaroiu's departure, and have since excluded two possibilities.
"Negotiations to select a new coach aren't as easy as some may think, especially that the management has set precise characteristics for the coach that will lead the team in the coming phase," said Mohammed Obaid Hammad, the team manager. "We are well aware of the importance of preparing the team ahead of the new football season.
"We are intensifying efforts to overcome the present circumstances and we look forward to officially announcing the name of Al Ain’s new coach. No doubt, taking a long time to name the new coach is harmful to the team, especially with the new season just around the corner. But we don't want to make any hasty decisions … Any urgency in appointing a coach would be more damaging to the interests of the club.
"It is no secret that many coaches would like to lead the Al Ain team.
"The club's management is making great efforts after the departure of Cosmin, and is working on bringing in the right coach who can lead the team and help achieve the club’s ambitions in the new season."
Ahmed Abdullah, a former captain who has long served as an assistant coach at the club, has been entrusted with overseeing team training until the new manager is installed.
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