The need for Al Nasr to make a change at the top was undeniable and in long-term target Dan Petrescu, they have landed a coach with a proven track record of success.
The dismissal of Ivan Jovanovic on Saturday provided the culmination to a 2016/17 season full of sorrow. From the farrago surrounding Brazil-born striker Wanderley’s “forged or falsified” Indonesian passport to a subsequent malaise which totalled six defeats in 10 games, it is clear the current situation could no longer be tolerated.
Serious questions remain to be answered at boardroom level about the documentation scandal which has ravaged their campaign. Yet in the new man – who oversaw his first training session last night – they have found the right candidate to stop the Blue Wave from crashing and to kick on for the demanded top-three finish.
Only a prohibitive €12 million (Dh60m) release clause stopped the ex-Chelsea and Romania right-back from beating Jovanovic to the job during 2013. Now a supremo with much to prove after his star waned in the intervening years will come to Dubai fired up.
Petrescu’s standing as an outstanding footballer will earn the instant respect of a dressing room which has grown apathetic since their dreams of making the 2016 AFC Champions League semi-finals were snatched away. A new boss means a squad out to impress, with continued under-performers sure to be cut loose in the winter window.
He can also point to silverware won in several countries. Most recently, the Chinese FA Cup was claimed at outsiders Jiangsu Suning in 2015.
Prior to that, highlights include winning the Romanian Supercup in the same year during his one game at Targu Mures as well as a rebuilding job at Kuban Krasnodar – from whom he departed for a second time earlier this month – which included the 2010 Russian First Division title.
The winds of change have swept through Al Maktoum Stadium. Petrescu should now carry them to success.
The Arabian Gulf League’s managerial merry-go-round is often an unforgiving ride but Al Nasr’s decision to replace the skilled and successful Ivan Jovanovic with Dan Petrescu after five rounds of a 26-game campaign appears rash.
Granted, what seemed a season full of possibility a little over two months ago has since come crashing down for the Blue Wave, but pressing the panic button, so commonly the go-to move in the UAE, is not the answer.
Petrescu was Nasr’s first-choice following the dismissal of Walter Zenga three years ago and the Dubai club have surely kept a close eye on his ensuing triumphs. But can he realistically fill the shoes of a manager who changed the face of the club since his appointment in June 2013? Simply put, no.
Jovanovic led Nasr to GCC Club Cup glory in 2014, breaking a 27-year cycle without a major trophy. He followed that with an Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup-double a year later. Despite a glut of silverware gleaned under his guidance, Jovanovic’s one glaring failure was not reeling in the coveted AGL title, with two fifth and one fourth placed finishes attained in his three seasons.
He began to address their shortcomings this summer with the acquisition of prolific striker Wanderley and ex-Al Jazira schemer Abdelaziz Barrada, but competition at the AGL’s top table is fierce and there is no suggestion Nasr have the ability to break the Jovanovic mould and penetrate the top three.
Yes, the alarming malaise that set in following the Wanderley furore has contributed to their poor form, but it is not the only reason. Al Ahli look just as imperious as they did last year, Al Ain have hit the ground running while Jazira look rejuvenated and Al Wasl and Al Shabab reinvigorated under new coaches.
Petrescu and his new employers will hope he quickly sets about turning their season around, but the Blue Wave’s 30-year wait for a league title doesn’t look like ending anytime soon.
Al Wahda are finally beginning to see the best of Hungary captain Balazs Dzsudzsak after a difficult start to life in the Emirates, according to Clarets team-mate Sebastian Tagliabue.
The 29-year-old former PSV and Dynamo Moscow forward was signed from Turkey’s Bursaspor in August following an impressive Euro 2016 campaign for his country – during which he scored two spectacular goals in a thrilling 3-3 draw with eventual champions Portugal.
However, a combination of missing the majority of pre-season with the Al Nahyan outfit, arriving during the stifling UAE summer and being away on World Cup 2018 qualifying duty with Hungary have led to underwhelming performances at club level.
But after following up his first Clarets goal in a 2-1 defeat to Al Wasl a week ago with another in Friday’s 5-1 thrashing of Al Nasr, Wahda’s lethal marksman Tagliabue believes his new team-mate’s undoubted talent is starting to shine through.
“I think now he is 85/90 per cent adapted,” said the Argentine frontman, whose second goal against the Blue Wave also arrived courtesy of a Dzsudzsak assist.
“He has to adapt to everything; the team, the coach, the weather. Also he needs confidence and I think from the last game against Wasl and today he has got a lot of confidence. Also he has scored two goals and this is very good for him.”
Also telling in Friday’s morale-boosting victory against struggling Nasr was the fact it was the first time Dzsudzsak completed 90 minutes for his new side, having played 60, 68, 45, 45 and been an unused substitute in his previous five games.
After a dour opening half, the game burst into life in the second period with both Dzsudzsak and Chilean Jorge Valdivia at their creative best, while several of Wahda’s youngsters also shone, like Mohamed Al Akbari, Mohammed Al Menhali and Khalid Bawazir.
Former Chelsea right-back Dan Petrescu will arrive in Dubai today to take over at Arabian Gulf League strugglers Al Nasr following the dismissal of Ivan Jovanovic.
Former Romania international Petrescu, 48, had been in line for the role prior to Serbian Jovanovic taking the helm at Al Maktoum Stadium in June 2013, with a €12 million (Dh60m) release clause in his contract at Dynamo Moscow proving a stumbling block three years ago.
But the Blue Wave took to Twitter yesterday to announce that Jovanovic had been sacked and an agreement reached with former Jiangsu Suning and Al Arabi coach Petrescu to replace him following an atrocious start to the season.
The nightmare unfolded after a 3-0 first leg AFC Champions League quarter-final triumph against Qatar’s El Jaish in August was reversed following the revelation that summer signing Wanderley had been playing with a “forged or falsified” Indonesian passport.
Since then Nasr have gone on to lose six of their next 10 games in all competitions, including four in a row in the AGL, to lie ninth.
Friday’s 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Al Wahda was the final straw and 54-year-old Jovanovic was given his marching orders yesterday.
“Dan Petrescu will arrive in Dubai today and will be taking charge of training,” Nasr press officer Mohamed Mubarak told Sport360, adding that the 95-times capped defender will be officially unveiled at a press conference on Tuesday.
“The board took the decision to sack Ivan Jovanovic following a lot of meetings to discuss the club’s poor form in the league in recent weeks.
“During those meetings the board made a decision that Ivan Jovanovic could not continue to achieve the league objectives of the board this season.
“Another meeting took place with the coach following the Al Wahda defeat, in which the situation was discussed with the coach, and a decision was taken today after last night’s result.”
It’s a sad end to what had been a largely fruitful stint at Nasr for two-time former APOEL supremo Jovanovic.
He ended a 25-year trophy drought at Al Maktoum Stadium in May 2014 when he led the Blue Wave to the GCC Club Cup with a 4-2 aggregate win in the final against Oman’s Saham.
He followed that with an Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup-double a year later – Nasr beating Sharjah 4-1 and Al Ahli 3-0 on penalties respectively.
Jovanovic is reportedly a candidate to replace UAE boss Mahdi Ali if a poor result in the Whites’ 2018 World Cup qualifier against Iraq next month leads to his sacking.