x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Cosmin Olaroiu's name is not in the mix at Al Ahli

But rumours suggest the Romanian has not extended his stay with rival Al Ain.

Al Ahli’s Majed Hassan is tackled by Al Ain’s Mohamed Abdulrahman. Games between the rivals last season were intense.
Al Ahli’s Majed Hassan is tackled by Al Ain’s Mohamed Abdulrahman. Games between the rivals last season were intense.

DUBAI // Al Ahli have denied Cosmin Olaroiu currently represents one of the candidates to replace Quique Sanchez Flores, although they did confirm they would be interested in the Al Ain manager should he become available.

Ahli are in the market for a new coach after Sanchez Flores decided earlier this month not to continue at the Rashid Stadium, calling an end to his two-year association with the Dubai club.

The President's Cup winners had revealed they were considering two options and, although they chose not to disclose their identity, it was widely accepted Aitor Karanka, Jose Mourinho's assistant during his time at Real Madrid, and Abel Braga, the former Al Jazira coach, were the only contenders.

Yet speculation emerged last week that Olaroiu had been approached, a move that seriously undermines his position at Al Ain.

The champions had offered the Romanian, who guided them to successive Pro League titles, an improved contract to keep him at the Garden City club until 2015 - his current deal expires at the end of next season - but reports claiming he had already signed the agreement proved to be premature.

That appears to have opened the door for Ahli to make known their interest, however Abdullah Al Naboodah, the club's chairman, has been quick to clarify the situation.

"Cosmin is a competent coach and his two league titles with Al Ain say a lot about his capabilities as a coach," he said. "What happened is a broker floated his name for us at a function, and I did express my surprise right then.

"I actually asked the man if he was his agent and he said no but that he was in direct contact with Cosmin. My response was that Cosmin was under a two-year contract with Al Ain, and Al Ahli cannot start talks with him while he was under contract.

"The broker then informed me the coach was close to ending his engagement with Al Ain, so I told the broker that he could get back to me when Al Ain does, in fact, end its ties with the coach.

"There's no doubt that Cosmin, being a coach with great capabilities, is a good option. But for as long as he is staying with Al Ain, he will not be among our options - and he is not so far."

Irrespective of the authenticity of the rumours, Olaroiu's linkage to Ahli is sure to further strain what is believed to be an already fractured relationship between the clubs.

Last season saw Ahli emerge as a genuine threat to the Garden City side's league dominance, with Sanchez Flores's men opening the 2012/13 campaign with a 6-3 victory at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium.

The return fixture, in April, was terminated early following an incident with the referee's assistant, which resulted in Al Ain being awarded a 3-0 win despite the score at the time standing at 0-0 in time added on. Ahli were instructed to play their next two home games away from Rashid Stadium and without their supporters in attendance.

A tempestuous President's Cup semi-final followed on May 5, and the perceived enmity continued until the season's end.

However, Al Naboodah rejected that any hostility exists, describing Ahli's relationship with Al Ain as "excellent".

"There has never been a problem between us and Al Ain and, inshallah, there will never be," he said. "Our relationship with them may see some differences in opinion regarding one issue or another, but that never amounts to discord.

"Whoever said there is friction between us and the Ainawis knows nothing about either of us. Our relationship with Al Ain - and the leadership and figures of Al Ain - is not so shallow as to be affected by the transfer of a player or by negotiations with a coach. And whenever there is a bit of a reproach from us regarding Al Ain, it is always out of an abundance of affection."

Al Naboodah also refuted suggestions the clubs had clashed regarding the recent transfer of Ibrahim Diaky, who eventually chose to join Al Ain from Al Jazira despite Ahli being involved in extensive negotiations with the midfielder after he had said the Dubai club was his preferred destination.

Ahli may have lost out on Diaky, but it seems they will continue to test Al Ain's resolve.

The 2012/13 Pro League runners-up are intent on recruiting from their rivals Mohammed Ahmed, the Emirati full-back who featured in all but five of last season's league matches.

"Our offer for Al Ain to bring Mohammed Ahmed still stands and we have not pulled it," Al Naboodah said.

"We are awaiting a response from Al Ain's management."

 

jmcauley@thenational.ae