x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Vercauteren asked to delay UAE switch to Al Jazira

Genk accepts that manager is moving to the UAE, but hopes he will stay for to help them reach the Champions League group stage.

Abu Dhabi // Franky Vercauteren could delay his move to Al Jazira so he can attempt to lead Racing Genk into the Champions League group stage later this month.

The Belgian coach's decision to join the Abu Dhabi club was confirmed yesterday in his homeland, where he returned on Tuesday after spending 48 hours meeting Jazira officials in the capital and being shown around the club.

But Dirk Dergraen, Racing Genk's chief executive, who has worked closely with Vercauteren for the past two seasons, has asked him to stay on and help the team beat Israeli side Maccabi Haifa, whom they face in the final Champions League qualifying round on August 17 and 23.

"In my conversations with Franky, he made it clear that he wanted to leave Genk and that is a shame," Dergraen said.

"However, we have asked him whether there would be any chance of him taking charge of the two ties against Maccabi Haifa as they are so vital to the club."

Vercauteren, who oversaw the Genk players' training session yesterday, remained tight-lipped about his plans.

"I need to sort this out with Genk," he said. "I see no problem in taking the players for training."

A statement from Racing Genk read: "It's official: Frank Vercauteren trades Genk for Al Jazira."

It added: "The club has asked if Vercauteren would still remain as coach until after the European encounters with Maccabi Haifa. The coach has promised to make every effort to meet that demand."

Dergraen was resigned to losing his manager but said the news was surprising. "I, perhaps, expected him to leave before pre-season because I knew other clubs had looked at him, but this has come as a bombshell to me," Dergraen said.

"Once the season started, I believe he would be with us for one more year. This is a big surprise, but then football is full of them. I understand this, but the players will be very disappointed.

"The timing is unfortunate because the games against Maccabi are the most important in this club's history in terms of finance. But when I spoke to him on Monday, when he was in Abu Dhabi, Franky confirmed that he would be leaving.

"It is a difficult time, but it will be less so if Franky stays with us for these two last weeks and helps to guide the team to the Champions League. He realises how crucial a time this is for us and I think he may want to see out these two final games."

Dergraen, speaking at a news conference in Genk, said he could not compete with the financial strength of Al Jazira, who it is reported will pay the Belgian Dh18 million a year for a two-year deal.

The Genk players were united in their belief that Al Jazira were in line to land a top-class coach.

Vercauteren led them to a Belgian title and Super Cup double in his only full season as manager.

"Nobody will ever say a bad thing about the boss because he won us a title and took us into Europe," said Hungarian midfielder Daniel Tozser. "I read about him moving to the UAE on the internet and it was a big surprise to me. We never spoke about it at training. Everything has been going on as if normal."

Vercauteren's first piece of business could be to sign Lucas Neill, the Australian captain and former West Ham defender. The 33 year old was released from Turkish club Galatasaray in the summer, and Al Jazira sources revealed that a deal was on the cards.

If the experienced Neill is signed, then one of the club's three foreign players, Matias Delgado, Bare and Ricardo Oliveira would be sold.

Al Nasr have signed Lazio midfielder Mark Bresciano on a two-year deal.

Bresciano 31, agreed terms with the Oud Mehta outfit on Monday and will reunite with his old Palermo coach, Walter Zenga.

Al Nasr team manager Khalid Obaid is delighted with the acquisition of the Australia international. "Bresciano is a good addition to the team with European experience," Obaid said yesterday.

The midfielder is reported to have put pen to paper on a deal worth £3.4million and will join Al Nasr as their Asian allocation.

The move completes the club's foreign quota, with UAE rules limiting clubs to four foreigners per squad, one of whom must be from the Asian Football Confederation.

 

ncameron@thenational.ae