x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Walter Zenga replaces Milla at Al Jazira

Former Al Nasr coach completes 20-month deal with Abu Dhabi-based Arabian Gulf League club, reports Amith Passela.

Walter Zenga took over at Al Jazira on Friday night, his first AGL managing job since he was with Al Nasr earlier this year. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Walter Zenga took over at Al Jazira on Friday night, his first AGL managing job since he was with Al Nasr earlier this year. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

ABU DHABI // Walter Zenga has replaced Luis Milla while Al Jazira were playing Al Dhafra in the Arabian Gulf League at the Hamdan bin Zayed Stadium tonight.

The former Italy goalkeeper, 53, previously coached Al Ain and Al Nasr, in the UAE, and Catania and Palermo in Seria A, and he takes charge at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium from today after completing a 20-month deal.

His first task is to regroup his new team for a home game against Dubai on Wednesday.

“The decision was made before the team’s meeting against Dhafra but we didn’t want the players to get distracted on the managerial change ahead of an important league game,” an official of the club said.

“The new coach has little time to prepare the players for the next game but the club management is confident he has lot of experience to handle the situation.”

Milla becomes the second coaching casualty of the AGL season; Al Wasl dismissed the Frenchman Laurent Banide this week following the team’s 3-1 defeat to Al Shabab.

The former Barcelona and Real Madrid midfielder and the Spain Olympic team coach in 2012 has been under pressure after a shaky start to the season.

Ahead of last night’s match, his record at Jazira showed 10 victories in 28 matches in all competitions. His joining the club, in February, came as a surprise because he replaced Paulo Bonamigo just days before the AFC Champions League began. Jazira won only one of six group matches and did not advance.

A loss to little Ajman in the Etisalat Cup final was an unpleasant surprise for Jazira. They were third in the league.

Zenga remained in Dubai after his departure as the Nasr coach. He led Nasr to third and then second in the league, but a sixth-place finish last season prompted Nasr and their coach to part ways.