Manager Vercauteren's interest in Al Jazira job disappoints Genk fans
The supporters of Racing Genk are confused and upset that Franky Vercauteren, their coach, is considering a move to Al Jazira.
They are disappointed that the man who led them to a Belgian title and Super Cup last season could be about to join a club they had never heard of before, in the UAE, a country most would know little about.
Only two weeks ago, referring to transfer rumours surrounding some of his players, notably Jelle Vossen, Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois, Vercauteren said: "I have a problem with those lads who forget they have a contract with Racing Genk. We have to respect them, but they must also respect the contract they have signed and do their job."
This is a quote that has been repeated on several occasions on various websites and forums by Genk supporters who feel Vercauteren had a cheek to question anyone's loyalty to the club so recently and then considers leaving himself.
But their anger is not really about someone walking away from Racing Genk to a new challenge. They are frustrated they are on the verge of losing a top class coach who has the team playing winning and attractive football.
Bad for them, but good for Al Jazira if a deal can be struck.
There were far more "please don't go" posts than accusations of "traitor" although the latter did exist. Especially as the Belgians have a Champions League play-off tie against Maccabi Haifa from Israel next week.
Jazira sources told The National that talks were continuing with the 54-year-old, but they did not expect to be able to confirm anything over the next few days.
However, reports in the Belgian media suggested that a deal was all but done and all Racing Genk could do now was seek compensation and start looking for a new coach.
So just who is Vercauteren?
"I want football to be played the proper way, with the ball on the ground and every single person in the team playing his part," he once said.
"I want my football teams to entertain as well as win. This is how I was brought up and it's why I fell in love with the game. Nobody remembers boring football teams, so why would any coach set up his team to be that?"
This should give Jazira fans some comfort as they have been used to their team playing attractive football under Abel Braga, the former coach, especially in last season's dominant title win.
Known as The Little Prince while a skilful left winger with Anderlecht and Belgium, Vercauteren won multiple domestic trophies and enjoyed huge success in Europe as well.
With Anderlecht, he won five European titles in total, four Belgium championships, two Super Cups, two Belgium cups and was voted Player of the Year twice.
After a disagreement with the club directors over a new contract, he moved to Nantes in 1987 where he spent three successful years, although trophies eluded him in France.
However, it was with the national team that Vercauteren became known to the wider football world.
Capped 63 times, he played in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals, when Belgium finished fourth overall, and also the 1984 European Championships.
Belgium's greatest ever national side appeared during this time and culminated in them reaching the 1986 World Cup semi-final when, to their disappointment, they encountered the eventual winners Argentina and a certain Diego Maradona who scored two amazing individual goals at the Aztec Stadium in a 2-0 win.
If Vercauteren hit the heights as a player, then he has almost topped those achievements since becoming a coach.
He was named manager of Anderlecht in 2005, winning two league titles and two Super Cups there before leaving acrimoniously at the end of 2007 after a bad run of results.
There was also a period when he was the part-time manager of the national team, between April and September 2009, but that did not work out.
So he joined Racing Genk in December 2009 and last season steered the club to their first league title since 2002.
And the Belgian champions were left reeling on Sunday night when, after a 0-0 draw away to Lierse, Vercauteren left Brussels for Abu Dhabi to talk with Jazira, who did say they were going to appoint a well known and established European coach after Alejandro Sabella reneged on his decision to join the club and accepted the job of Argentina manager instead.
"Are we surprised by this? I cannot comment on that," Herbert Houben, the Racing Genk chairman, said.
"We will speak with the coach as soon as we can and then we will find out what is happening."
But it is clear they fear that they have lost their best coach in almost a decade.
The depth of feeling was summed up by Belgium's top football paper Sport24 which said: "Vercauteren is leaving: It is a disaster."
Updated: August 10, 2011 04:00 AM