x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Jazira's Alejandro Sabella linked with Argentina job

Local media make the incoming Al Jazira coach favourite for the role of head coach after Sergio Batista stepped down after a disappointing Copa America.

Alejandro Sabella, the new Al Jazira coach, has been linked with the Argentina job.
Alejandro Sabella, the new Al Jazira coach, has been linked with the Argentina job.

Al Jazira's new coach, Alejandro Sabella, is the Argentina Football Association's first choice to become the international team's manager, according to reports in South America.

Officials at the UAE professional league champions were put on high alert when news broke that Sergio Batista had agreed to step down as coach of La Albiceleste in the wake of their disappointing quarter-final exit at the Copa America.

Most of the major media outlets in Argentina have Sabella as the favourite to take-over the vacant post, despite him signing a one-year deal with the Abu Dhabi club on June 11.

Sabella was hired to follow in the successful footsteps of Abel Braga and was expected to arrive in the UAE next Monday, the date when all the players return to start full training.

But La Prensa, a major daily newspaper in Argentina that concentrates on sport, claimed last night that Sabella had "postponed his trip to the UAE to take on the job at Al Jazira because he has received a message from the FA".

The other two candidates for the job are said to be Gerardo Martino, Paraguay's coach who is Argentine, and Carlos Bianchi, currently in charge of Atletico Madrid in Spain.

La Nacion, a leading newspaper based in Buenos Aires, insisted Batista lasted only a year because he could not get the best out of Lionel Messi who needed a coach who would build the team around the Barcelona star.

"(That is why) Alejandro Sabella appears as the great candidate," said its football editorial.

The English-language Buenos Aires Herald added that Sabella should have been given the job a year ago and were adamant the football authorities would not risk making the same mistake again, especially after such a dismal Copa America on home soil.

Sabella, 56, was expected to be the replacement for Diego Maradona, now at Al Wasl, after last summer's World Cup.

Speaking to the BBC at the time, he said: "In Argentina, being the national team coach is the most wanted position."

Capped just four times for his country, Sebella's coaching career was far more successful than his playing days.

He was assistant to former Argentina boss Daniel Passarella in the 1998 World Cup, and the pair also worked together at Italian club Parma as well as at teams in Uruguay, Mexico and Brazil.

Sabella became manager of Estudiantes in 2009 and guided the club to the victory in the Copa Libertadores.

As a player, he had two spells in English football when he joined Sheffield United in 1978 and then remained in Yorkshire as he joined Leeds United.

An Argentine FA spokesman, Ernesto Bialo, said Batista had not been sacked, but it had been decided to "rescind" the coach's contract.

"He put his future as the head of the national team up for consideration by the executive committee," he said.

"There are no deadlines, there's no rush, no urgency [to appoint a new coach] so there will be a process of consideration and study."

ncameron@thenational.ae


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