x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Quique Sanchez Flores up for the challenge at Al Ain

New coach introduced at club and 'first task would be to restore confidence and belief’ after shaky start to the season.

Quique Sanchez Flores being unveiled as the new Al Ain manager as a news conference on Saturday. Cortesy Al Ain FC
Quique Sanchez Flores being unveiled as the new Al Ain manager as a news conference on Saturday. Cortesy Al Ain FC

Quique Sanchez Flores has vowed to restore Al Ain’s confidence and get the team playing like champions again after signing a two-year contract with the club.

The Spaniard was speaking at a news conference on Saturday, just a few hours after putting pen to paper on deal to coach the 2011 and 2012 UAE champions.

Al Ain are ninth in the table after winning just one of their first three league games. They suffered a shock 4-3 defeat at Al Dhafra on Friday night.

“I am very glad to sign for Al Ain and will do my best to win trophies for them,” said Sanchez Flores, 48. “They are an excellent team with quality in every line.

“I watched their last game against Al Dhafra on television. I think they were a bit low in confidence and my first task would be to talk to the players and restore confidence and the belief that they are a champion side.”

Sanchez Flores had been expected to join the UAE champions sometime last week, although the negotiations were more protracted than anticipated.

The appointment of Sanchez Flores comes 15 days after the dismissal of Jorge Fossati, the Uruguayan’s troubled tenure terminated just seven weeks into his reign.

Fossati, who succeeded the hugely successful Cosmin Olaroiu, had clashed with players and management regarding training and tactics.

Al Ain are trusting Sanchez Flores to guide them in their quest for a third successive league title, and into next year’s Asian Champions League campaign.

The full details of his contract were not revealed but Mohammed Obaid Hammad, the team supervisor, said that the two-year deal was worth “less than €3 million [Dh14.9m]”.

Sanchez Flores added: “Obviously my task would be to prepare them to win every competition.

“It is always good to start with a team before the season starts but I am still happy and feel confident of preparing this team to reach a good level in a short time.

“I will speak to the players about the club’s objectives and my philosophies before our first training session.

“We will all work to achieve one goal that is to bring success to the club.”

The team trained on Saturday night under Ahmed Abdullah, the caretaker coach, and Sanchez Flores will take charge from Monday after a rest day.

The former Valencia and Atletico Madrid coach burnished his reputation during 20 months at Al Ahli from November 2011, leading the Dubai club to the Etisalat Cup in his first year, while last season Ahli lifted the President’s Cup and finished as runners-up to Al Ain in the league.

The move completes a remarkable turnaround for last season’s top two clubs, who have effectively swapped managers, with Olaroiu now in charge of Ahli.

Sanchez Flores has fond memories of his time in Dubai, having decided not to renew his contract with Ahli in the summer.

“It is not uncommon for a coach or player to change clubs. I had a great time at Ahli and would like to think of a successful stay at Al Ain,” he said.

“Now I am the Al Ain coach my focus will be in this team only. I spent nearly two seasons here and have a good knowledge of the teams and the competition in the UAE.

“This experience would certainly help me to adapt quickly with my new team and the players.

Sanchez Flores is known for his meticulous approach to training and pre-match preparation, and his inclination to play the sort of attacking football that has helped Al Ain comfortably rule the domestic game for the past two seasons was key to the club’s decision to install him.

His first game as coach will be next Friday’s League Cup encounter at Al Shaab, with another Group A clash to come on October 10, against Sharjah.

Al Ain’s Arabian Gulf League programme resumes on October 19 with the home fixture against Dubai.

sports@thenational.ae