x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Date set for Diego Maradona to start work with Al Wasl

The Dubai club confirms he will officially start on August 1, while Francisco Yeste's time at the club is over.

Diego Maradona will arrive to take over the reins at Al Wasl on August 1, according to the club, when he has finished scouting for players in South America.
Diego Maradona will arrive to take over the reins at Al Wasl on August 1, according to the club, when he has finished scouting for players in South America.

Diego Maradona will officially start his job as Al Wasl coach on August 1, and the Dubai club said yesterday they were not worried by the team's later start to pre-season training.

Maradona is to stay in Argentina for the remaining Copa America games where he will continue scouting for potential new signings. His new players at Wasl will meet on Sunday, the day of the final, for the first time since his appointment.

The other 11 professional league clubs reported for duty at the start of this month, and many are now at European training camps.

Al Ahli are training three times a day in Vienna while Al Ain have already played two pre-season games in Italy. But this is not a concern for Wasl, who say they have everything in place for Maradona's arrival in less than two weeks.

"Everything with Diego is fine and he will be here by August 1 to start his job," Ahmed Khalifa, the club's chief media officer, said.

"The players begin their fitness training on Sunday and will have a double session every day until the new coach is here and that is what was always going to happen, it is what we expected."

He said the club have prepared a villa for Maradona and his family at Palm Jumeirah.

"Everything is ready and going to plan," Khalifa said. "The board of directors has been in constant contact with Diego and his agent. Everything is normal. The club knew we would start pre-season training later and that is not a problem."

Some Argentina fans on Sunday vented their anger at the team's Copa America quarter-final loss to Uruguay by calling for Maradona, their former coach, to return.

The legendary captain was dismissed by his national team after losing to Germany in last summer's World Cup quarter-finals in South Africa, but Sergio Batista, his successor, is under pressure after barely half a year in the job.

Outside the headquarters of the Argentine Football Association in Buenos Aires, supporters stuck placards on walls and lampposts demanding "come back Diego".

However, Wasl are unconcerned about events in Argentina and are happy with the health of their new coach who was in involved in a recent road traffic accident.

Maradona, 50, was in a car crash in Buenos Aires last week when a car, which was being driven by his girlfriend, Veronica Ojeda, hit a bus. Both were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

"The board were told right away that Diego is in good condition and everything is fine with him," Khalifa said. "It is definitely nothing to be concerned about."

Khalifa confirmed Francisco Yeste will be leaving the club to make way for new foreign signings, but stressed that no bid had been made by for the 31-year-old former Athletic Bilbao midfielder.

The Spaniard was voted Wasl's best outfield player last season and quickly became a hero with the fans with 10 goals and several assists in the league.

Yeste would have preferred to stay in the UAE as he has enjoyed his 12 months in Dubai.

"I think we can say that Yeste's time at the club is over," Khalifa said. "The board is right now working out what to do with him. But we have had no contact by any club about him from the UAE or abroad."

Wasl signed Edson Puch, a Chilean midfielder, before Maradona was appointed and have two spaces left for foreign players.

Wasl have also captured four Emirati players; Fahad Masoud the Al Wahda right-back, on loan, Hamad Al Hosani, a striker from relegated Al Dhafra, Mubarak Hassan, the UAE Under 21 and Olympic team defender from Fujairah, and Ali Rabeah, a defender from the Emirates club.

Albert Benaiges, who spent almost 20 years at Barcelona's famed La Masia academy, last week started his job with the Wasl academy.