x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pro League: Majority of Al Nasr fans unhappy over exit of Walter Zenga

Twitter survey reveals fans' fondness for Italian coach who will not be at the helm of Dubai club next season.

Walter Zenga was reportedly linked with a move back to Italy. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Walter Zenga was reportedly linked with a move back to Italy. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Al Nasr and Walter Zenga have decided to part ways following the club's "comprehensive evaluation" of the Italian's performance as coach over the past season.

Zenga, who guided the team to third and second in the Pro League in his first two seasons, failed to work his magic in the third and Nasr finished sixth, 23 points behind the champions Al Ain.

The Italian goalkeeping legend, who arrived at the club in January 2011, had a year left on his contract, but following a meeting with club officials yesterday, the contract was dissolved by "mutual consent".

"The decision to terminate the contract was based on a comprehensive evaluation by the technical committee of the coach's work over the previous period," said Ahmed Hashim Khoury, the vice chairman of Nasr's board of directors.

"The technical committee's recommendation was to end the contract with the current coach and appoint a new one of the next season. So we are looking at a number of possible candidates and will announce the name of the new coach as soon as we make a decision."

According to sources at the club, Nasr have three candidates on their shortlist and a decision will be made within 15 days.

An obvious replacement for Zenga would appear to be Sven-Goran Eriksson, Nasr's technical director, who joined the club in January.

However, it is believed the club are not considering the former England, Lazio and Manchester City manager, who they may want to remain in his current role.

The split between Nasr and Zenga is not a surprise. Speculation over his future at the club had been common, over the past month. The Italian refused to attend Nasr's pre-match press conferences in the final two rounds of the Pro League, sending his assistant, Massimo Pedrazzini instead.

"According to the print media, I am no longer the coach of Al Nasr, so there is no reason for me to attend," he had quipped.

Zenga had also held meetings with the Nasr management before the end of the season to discuss the possibility of mutually terminating the contract. According to some reports, he had already cleared his office.

The prospects of landing a job back in Italy may have also played a part in Zenga's decision to part ways with Nasr.

Zenga had been linked with a return to Inter Milan, the club he represented for 12 years during his playing career. Inter, however, named Walter Mazzarri as their manager just over a week ago, bringing in the former Napoli coach to replace Andrea Stramaccioni following a disappointing season when they finished ninth in Serie A.

Zenga has coached Palermo and Catania in the Italian top flight. He has been linked to the Turkish club Besiktas, and also has been suggested as a possible candidate to lead the Romania national team.

"I want my family to be happy," he said.

"I'm not interested in money; I'm not going anywhere for a [big] contract."

Nasr fans, apparently, will not be happy to see Zenga leave. In a survey conducted on Twitter, more than 75 per cent of respondents wanted him to stay.

The departure is bound to upset a few players as well, particularly those who came to prominence during his reign. Humaid Abbas is one of them and the midfielder expressed his disappointment.

"What Zenga has done for the team over the past three seasons, no other coach has managed that for more than 10 years," he said.

"He had a lot of passion for the club and though he did not win any titles, he commanded them to second and third in the league and, for the first time in our club's history, we qualified for the Champions League.

"So, irrespective of where we finished last season, he was successful with the club and Zenga's departure is not in the interest of the team."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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