x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Olaroiu's crossover may spark hostilities among Al Ain and Al Ahli

Coach's move was rumoured, but switch to arch-rivals will not go down well at Garden City, writes John McAuley.

Cosmin Olaroiu, centre, led Al Ain to successive titles and his departure could be cause of resentment for the fans. Silvia Razgova / The National
Cosmin Olaroiu, centre, led Al Ain to successive titles and his departure could be cause of resentment for the fans. Silvia Razgova / The National

DUBAI // Cosmin Olaroiu appears to have finally made the controversial switch from Al Ain to Al Ahli with sources at the Dubai club suggesting the appointment will be confirmed today.

The Romanian has for some time been touted as a possible replacement for Quique Sanchez Flores, the Spaniard who last month decided not to renew his contract, although there remained the feeling Olaroiu would reject the advances of a team who now represent the UAE champions' closest rivals.

Olaroiu, 44, had one year remaining on his Al Ain contract and was said to be considering a proposed new offer, on improved terms, to keep him at the Garden City club until 2015.

However, he decided not to sign the new agreement and has instead accepted the opportunity to join Ahli on a three-year contract believed to be worth €4 million (Dh19m) a season. Intriguingly, Al Ain had reportedly offered a similar financial package.

Although it was expected, Olaroiu's departure will no doubt rankle with both the Al Ain board and the club's supporters.

The former Steaua Bucharest coach, who joined Al Ain following successful spells in Saudi Arabia and then Qatar, continued to prosper in the UAE, guiding his side to consecutive Pro League titles.

In that time, Ahli emerged as the most genuine threat to Al Ain's domestic dominance, and a series of ill-tempered encounters last season seemed to have fostered a palpable enmity between the clubs.

Last season, it was Ahli who finished runners-up to Al Ain in the league, while in May they emerged victorious from a fractious semi-final of the President's Cup.

Presumably, Olaroiu's defection will only deepen the hostility, which is sure to be at its most acute when he takes charge for his first competitive match as Ahli coach - the Super Cup clash against Al Ain on August 30.

Al Ain, meanwhile, have begun in earnest their search for a successor, placing an emphasis on a manager with experience in the Gulf region.

The club view 2013/14 as too important a campaign to take a risk on a relative novice, although they will not convince Abel Braga, the former Al Jazira coach, to return to the Emirates. Braga, 60, currently manages Fluminese in his native Brazil and is thought to be reluctant to move.

Al Ain, though, will endeavour to have a new man in place by the time the squad gathers on July 15 for preseason training.

Uncertainty surrounds the future, too, of Mirel Radoi, the Al Ain captain who served under his compatriot Olaroiu at Steaua and Al Hilal in Saudi.


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