x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Zenga left indelible mark on players he coached during time in Dubai

Walter Zenga's former players at Al Nasr still speak highly of the Italian.

Walter Zenga, who was officially unveiled as the new Al Jazira coach on Sunday, had made an impression on Al Nasr during his time at the Dubai club. Courtesy Al Jazira Sport and Cultural Club
Walter Zenga, who was officially unveiled as the new Al Jazira coach on Sunday, had made an impression on Al Nasr during his time at the Dubai club. Courtesy Al Jazira Sport and Cultural Club

DUBAI // Two of Walter Zenga’s former players have praised the temperamental Italian’s coaching style as he prepares to start life with Al Jazira this week.

In two-and-a-half seasons at Al Nasr, Zenga led the Dubai side to third- and second-place finishes in the UAE top-flight table before a disappointing sixth last term prompted club and coach to part company.

However, he is fondly remembered at Nasr, and after Saturday’s 4-3 victory over league foes Baniyas, two of his former players spoke admiringly of their previous boss.

“I like Zenga so much, because he helped me a lot here,” said Leonardo Lima, the Brazilian midfielder and club captain. “I have a lot of admiration for him and hope he does well in Abu Dhabi because he is a good man.”

Zenga has a reputation for being an abrasive character – he was once fined for insulting a journalist – but Lima thinks that is all part of his winning mentality.

“He is strong and becomes crazy only because he wants to win,” the former Sao Paulo midfielder said.

“During the week, he is calm and works his teams hard because he strives always to get the three points and fight for the championship.”

Habib Al Fardan, Nasr’s UAE international midfielder, said Zenga had a big influence on his career.

“He is like a father to me,” he said. “He did great things here at Al Nasr and I wish him good luck at Jazira. Hopefully he gets success.

“Of course, Jazira are a big team and there will be pressure, but I hope he does well. I’m not sure what their position is in the league just now, but I think he can do well there. He always goes for the win and I am sure he will do well.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae