x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Maradona will finalise Wasl deal this week

Diego Maradona will be in Dubai this week to finalise his two-year deal with Al Wasl and reveal his long-term plans for the club, the Pro League side confirms.

Diego Maradona, centre, poses with the Al Wasl players, who he will take charge of next season, during a recent trip to Dubai earlier this month.
Diego Maradona, centre, poses with the Al Wasl players, who he will take charge of next season, during a recent trip to Dubai earlier this month.

DUBAI // Diego Maradona will be in Dubai this week to finalise his two-year deal with Al Wasl and reveal his long-term plans for the club, the Pro League side confirmed last night.

The final details are still being finalised about when what is sure to be the UAE's busiest-ever press conference will take place at the Zabeel Stadium.

Al Wasl sources told The National yesterday that this would happen over the "next couple of days".

The Dubai club are bracing themselves for unprecedented media interest when Maradona, 50, eventually faces the cameras, two weeks after the stunning news was revealed he had agreed to become the highest-profile coach in UAE football history.

They have already been contacted by global television and radio stations, as well as print media from around the world, all of which want to be there when Maradona speaks his first words as Wasl's coach.

The club also expects a huge crowd of fans at the stadium to greet the man who, in 1986, almost single-handedly won the World Cup for Argentina in Mexico.

The Wasl chairman, Marwan bin Bayat, said last week that everything was in place and he expected the Argentine legend to be in the country this month to sign his contract, and that he did not expect anything to get in the way.

Only yesterday did the club accelerate Maradona's arrival to this week.

Some sceptics may still doubt that arguably the game's greatest player will keep to the agreement made last month with Wasl, but the chairman believes he already has established a close relationship with his new coach.

Barring any last-minute hitches, the most fascinating appointment in UAE sport will begin officially, and in earnest, by this weekend.

Maradona, who managed his national side at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa last year, will return to Argentina for a month, after this visit, and then come back to Dubai for pre-season training, by which time his backroom staff will be in place.

He and the club's directors will take this opportunity to discuss not only any potential big-name foreign signings, but also the acquisition of the best UAE players, which is one of the club's biggest aims over the summer months.

Wasl have two more games this season and are attempting to secure a berth in the Asian Champions League next year.

The top three Pro League sides will gain automatic entry into the group stage, and the fourth-place team will have a chance to qualify for group play.

Wasl are currently third on 31 points.

Before Wasl's most recent match, a 1-0 victory over Dubai, bin Bayat said that, contrary to rumours, Maradona would not be able to lay claim to being the second-best paid coach in football, after Jose Mourinho, who earns a reported basic wage of Dh66 million a year at Real Madrid.

"The deal we have is good for us and good for Diego," bin Bayat said at the time.

"The figures that have been reported are not true."

However, Maradona is still likely to earn a hefty pay package.

He also will have access to a private jet so that he and his family can fly home to Argentina during breaks in the season.

ncameron@thenational.ae