x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Transfer rumours revisit Pro League champions Al Ain coach Cosmin Olaroiu

Reports of him joining Saudi club Al Ahli though the Romanian had assured he will see out contract's final year.

Cosmin Olaroiu is in demand as the UAE league's champion coach. Silvia Razgova / The National
Cosmin Olaroiu is in demand as the UAE league's champion coach. Silvia Razgova / The National

Cosmin Olaroiu's position as Al Ain coach is in doubt after reports in Saudi Arabia claimed he has accepted an offer to manage Jeddah-based Al Ahli.

A Saudi media outlet said a deal to return to the Saudi Pro League is "confirmed" – Olaroiu has previously managed in the league with Al Hilal - with Ahli reported to have offered him a three-year contract worth around €2.5 million (Dh12m) per season.

The Saudi club endured a difficult domestic campaign in 2012/13 despite winning the Saudi Federation Cup, finishing fifth in the table. Olaroiu would seem an obvious candidate to reverse their fortunes, as his stock remains high in Saudi.

He guided Hilal to the 2008 league title and in the same year secured the first of successive Crown Prince Cup trophies. However, the Romanian has repeatedly dismissed the clamour surrounding his future as simply speculation, and only two weeks ago again confirmed his desire to remain with the UAE champions for next season. He has a contract with Al Ain until 2014.

Yet Ahli's place in the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League – the tournament resumes in August – could prove the decisive factor.

Al Ain are no longer involved on the continent, although the opportunity to improve on the Garden City club's unsatisfactory performance in this season's competition was thought to be the motivation behind Olaroiu's pledge to stay.

While Al Ain officials were unavailable for comment yesterday, it is believed they expect Olaroiu, 43, to honour the final year of his contract. There is concern, though, that he will accept Ahli's proposal.

It marks a strong contrast to the coach's comments last month, when ahead of Al Ain's final match of the season, he said: "I heard recently that I'm leaving Al Ain, but if I wanted to leave I would've done it before, as I received great offers during this season and last. There are only rumours.

"I'm here for next season until I finish my contract. For me, staying in Al Ain has nothing to do with financial matters, only sporting matters. I don't care about money, only about my work."

At the time, Mohammed Abdullah bin Bdoua, a member of the Al Ain board, reinforced the belief Olaroiu would continue, saying: "People always try to spread rumours so to make news for themselves, but the fact is Cosmin has a contract with Al Ain for next season. We have discussed with him many times about improving the technical aspects of the team and he is more than keen to stay.

"Rumours like this are normal when they are related to distinguished teams and because Cosmin is the best coach in the UAE.

"We all agree about Cosmin's charisma and his coaching abilities. It would be hard to replace him, but he's now working on preparing the team for an important period in the coming season."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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