x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Cuper coy over Al Wasl’s future targets ahead of Dubai game

The new coach will use the Dubai game today to pick up shortcomings and learn the team better.

Hector Cuper has denied having discussions on any new possible signings rumoured such as Ronaldinho. Pawan Singh / The National
Hector Cuper has denied having discussions on any new possible signings rumoured such as Ronaldinho. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // As a manager, Hector Cuper has built an impressive resume over the past two decades.

The Argentine won the Copa Conmebol with Lanus in 1996, won the Spanish Supercup with Mallorca in 1998 and finished runners-up in the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup with the same team in the following season.

Cuper won the Spanish Super Cup for a second time in 1999 with Valencia and then took that team to two consecutive Uefa Champions League finals.

In 2002/03, his side were runners-up in the Italian Serie A with Inter Milan.

But as he starts his tenure with Al Wasl with a visit to Dubai tomorrow, he claims his new job is the “biggest challenge” of his coaching career.

It is not difficult to imagine why. Wasl have lacked consistency – both on the pitch and in the dugout – over the past few seasons and their fortunes have been sliding since the club won the league and cup in 2006/07.

Wasl have not finished better than fifth in the league since 2010, and at the moment, they are seventh in the Arabian Gulf League and club officials are hoping the new manager can turn things around.

Cuper replaces Frenchman Laurent Banide, who was shown the door last month after eight matches, and he warns he is not expecting to fix things overnight.

“I have an idea now about the team and their football, but I need time to work on each of the players individually, so as to put them on track to success,” said Cuper, 58, yesterday.

“The positive thing is the spirit of the players. They have shown a lot of commitment in training. So we will go step by step and keep working on our shortcomings. The players have the intent to succeed, which makes me happy.

“What I expect from the players is to listen to my advice and recommendations, and implement our plans and strategies, not just in training, but in the matches as well. We will have to stand shoulder to shoulder as we march towards our targets.”

Cuper has not set any lofty targets for his players, though, except to try to “win every match, match after match”.

“There are clear differences between hopes and facts,” he added. “The fact is, it is not going to be easy for us, but we will keep fighting and work hard.”

With the January transfer window approaching, the manager will have to make a quick assessment about his foreign players, and decide whether he wants to retain them or find replacements.

“The picture for me will become clearer after this game against Dubai,” Cuper said.

“We cannot make decisions in a hurry, because that could have negative consequences on the team.”

The Argentine, however, denied any knowledge of possible negotiations with Ronaldinho, the former Barcelona and AC Milan man, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002.

“I have been hearing about these rumours from the newspapers,” he said. “We have not had any discussions till now about new signings.

“We are only focused on this match against Dubai and we will see what happens in the coming days.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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