x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Grondona: Sabella's appointment will not be criticised in Argentina

Al Jazira's worst fears are confirmed when the Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Julio Grondona revealed Alejandro Sabella will take charge of the national team.

Al Jazira's worst fears are confirmed when the Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Julio Grondona revealed Alejandro Sabella will take charge of the national team.

The news hardly comes as a shock to the Abu Dhabi club who began discussing alternatives to the Argentine on Wednesday when it became clear the 56 year old, who had signed a year-long contract, did not catch his flight to Dubai from South America on Tuesday because he has been contacted by the Argentine football authorities in Buenos Aires.

"I do not think the appointment of Sabella will cause criticism in Argentine football," Grondona told Radio Rivadavia yesterday.

Earlier this week the AFA president publicly ruled out Carlos Bianchi, the only other serious candidate to replace Sergio Bastia, who stepped down this week following Argentina's poor showing at the Copa America.

"I went to get [Bianchi] twice after the 1998 World Cup in France and he said no," Grondona said. "Then he made some remarks I did not like. He said things that make it very hard for us to see eye to eye."

Sabella was last night thought to be finalising personal terms to become his country's new coach and it may be the case that the AFA have to pay Al Jazira compensation because of the break of contract, although that will be the least of their worries for now, as the club's board continue their search for a coach to replace the departed Abel Braga with the club's pre-season preparations set to step up in intensity today.

Jazira's foreign trio, the Brazilian strike pair Bare and Ricardo Oliveira, plus Matthias Delgado, the Argentine, will join their Emirati teammates today for their first training session after the summer break with the club seemingly no nearer knowing who will lead them this season in the defence of their domestic league championship and President's Cup title.

Sabella would have signed his agreement with the AFA before now, but Grondona and his team are currently busy with plans to unify the country's first- and second-tiers into one league for the upcoming season.

ncameron@thenational.ae