Edgardo Bauza was convinced to take up the “personal challenge” of guiding the UAE after finding common ground with their Football Association, in contrast to his painful recent experience at Argentina.
Bauza, 59, has inked a two-year to reinvigorate the Whites’ faltering bid to make World Cup 2018 and guide them on home soil at the 2019 Asian Cup. This decision granted an instant return to management after he was dismissed by the Argentine Football Association’s new president Claudio Tapia last month because of a miserable eight-match spell, which sees the beaten World Cup 2014 finalists on the verge of missing next summer’s tournament.
His unveiling on Thursday night at the UAE Football Association’s headquarters in Al Khawaneej also marked the end of a sinuous process to find Mahdi Ali’s replacement, involving advanced talks with a number of other candidates as well as a previous rejected bid from El Paton.
“First of all, this is a personal challenge because we are all on the same track – the president and all the directors,” said Bauza. “We are not thinking about just the three games [remaining qualifiers on Road to Russia] in the coming months, we are thinking about a long-term period and long-term project.
“That is my main goal, to start work as soon as possible. We have an initial two-year project, but we think it is possible to pray for a longer term as everyone is thinking the same – coach and president.”
He added: “I had done some research about the team before coming here but I now have some more knowledge about the team after watching three games from the qualifying campaign. From this, I will start working and try and improve the situation.”
Bauza takes over a nation who are fourth with three games left in the third-and-final round of qualifying for World Cup 2018, one place and four points outside the advancement spots in Group B. A 2-0 defeat to Australia on March 28 saw Ali hand in his resignation, ending a transformational four-and-a-half-year tenure.
The new man has less than five weeks to prepare for his first qualifier, a must-win match at eliminated Thailand. He will debut in a friendly against Qatar in Doha on May 6.
After the fixture in Bangkok, they host Bert van Marwijk’s high-flying Saudi Arabia on August 31 and finish off against Iraq on September 5. They will likely need to take all nine points to stand any chance of success.
Bauza was fully aware of the dire straits his new team finds themselves in as they bid for a second-ever entry into the globe’s grandest football event.
He said: “Mathematically it is possible, but it is very difficult. For sure, we will try to win.
“The situation is difficult because it doesn’t depend on the UAE, it depends on other results.”
Bauza was given his marching orders by the AFA on April 11, less than two weeks after Tapia took the reins. He offered a pragmatic take on the abrupt end of his “beautiful experience” in charge of his nation.
“Having a new president [with Argentina], you know if you come from the old president [Armando Perez] you know you are finished,” said Paton
“It was a beautiful experience, Argentina. But it was finished and there were another five possibilities.
“I chose this one because of the challenge.”
The UAE FA first failed to lure fellow Argentine Alejandro Sabella early last month because of health reasons, while Cosmin Olaroiu preferred to wait for a European post if he is to leave Ahli. An initial $3.5 million annual package was then turned down by Bauza, before scheduling issues torpedoed a move for ex-Honduras and Ecuador tactician Reinaldo Rueda.
Bauza’s only experience of Middle Eastern football is a four-month spell at Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in 2009.
He will add to this by watching Al Jazira’s title coronation in the Arabian Gulf League against Al Dhafra on Friday, before taking in next Friday’s President’s Cup final between Al Nasr and Al Wahda after a brief trip home.
Argentina legend Diego Maradona has declared he is “not afraid of the challenge” as he prepares to guide Fujairah back to the Arabian Gulf League, following his shock return to management.
Maradona, 56, stunned the world last Sunday when a one-year deal was announced with the Wolves for 2017/18. This means the iconic ex-Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli superstar will be in charge in First Division League, five years since he was sacked by top-flight Al Wasl.
“Yes, I’ll be coaching again,” he told FIFA.com from the organisation’s Congress in Bahrain. “I’ll work for Fujairah, which is located an hour away from Dubai.
“I liked the project and especially the team.
“Now it will be time to work with them and recharge the batteries.
“I’m not afraid of the challenge. It’s the opposite in fact, I am really excited.
“I cannot wait to meet the players and see how they train, how they eat, how they hit the ball.
“It’s a new challenge in a smaller league, although I’ll treat it like it was the best in the world.”
Fujairah finished fourth last term, two places and nine points away from the promotion spots. They enjoyed a two-year spell in the AGL from 2014-16.
Whites wait to reveal Bauza
The UAE Football Association are expected to announce a two-year deal on Thursday for recently-dismissed Argentina boss Edgardo Bauza to takeover the national team.
Bauza, 59, held extensive final talks with the organising body yesterday to succeed Mahdi Ali. He flew into Dubai late on Tuesday.
El Paton was sacked in April by La Albiceleste after just eight games.
Edgardo Bauza was a saint. He’d performed a miracle. The jokes could stop. No longer could rival fans joke that the CSLA on their crest stood for Club Atletico sin Libertadores – in 2014 San Lorenzo finally became South American champions.
A 106-year wait came to an end just one year after their most famous supporter, Pope Francis, became the first man from the Americas to hold office at the Vatican. A delegation from the club headed straight to Rome to present him the trophy.
And it was Bauza who had led one of Argentina’s most storied clubs into the light, following up his 2008 success with Ecuador’s LDU Quito to become the first coach to win South America’s Champions League with clubs from different countries.
Just two years previously, San Lorenzo had been hamstrung by mismanagement and crippled by debt, with even Argentina’s convoluted relegation system (calculated on an average-points total over three years) which is heavily weighted in favour of the big clubs couldn’t prevent them from needing a play-off to avoid relegation.
Bauza did it, he said, by adding balance to a side that had raced its way to Argentina’s 19-match league title in 2013 under former coach Juan Antonio Pizzi. “The team had won the Argentinian league by playing a very attack-minded game, with everyone pushing forward. We had a lot of firepower up front but were weak at the back,” Bauza told FIFA.com.
That San Lorenzo side weren’t one for the ages, but they were certainly the best team on the continent that year; as were LDU in 2008, who played with tempo and took full advantage of the altitude of Quito, which saw Bauza named South American Coach of the Year.
His two major successes had arrived via a measured approach, by taking a step back to assess what he was working with before deciding how to move forward, which is also how his playing career began.
A fine midfielder in his adolescence, Bauza’s break came at a mass trial held by Rosario Central for hundreds of hopefuls in his province of Santa Fe. When the coaches asked the kids where they played, the overwhelming majority were midfielders or forwards.
To stand out, Bauza claimed he was a centre-back. He went on to played more than 300 league games for Central, hitting over 100 goals to leave him one of the most prolific stoppers in the game’s history. Nicknamed El Paton (Big Foot), Bauza was an imposing defender who stood over 6 ft 2 in and struggled to find boots to fit.
His coaching career also began with Central and took him to Peru, and to Riyadh with Al Nassr in 2009, before his saintly success at San Lorenzo led him to Sao Paulo in 2014. Brazil provided the biggest stage of his career up to that point, but also the greatest task.
Sao Paulo were a shadow of the club that had won national, continental and international titles a decade previously, plagued by financial and institutional problems, they’d just lost a host of stars including Alexandre Pato to Chelsea and club legend Rogerio Ceni to retirement. Bauza’s pragmatic approach led them all the way to semi-finals of the Libertadores, and led Bauza to the Argentina job in August 2016.
He inherited a mess, however. The Argentinian Football Association (AFA) was in a state of chaos, a FIFA normalisation committee having been drafted in to remedy the endless institutional own goals that led to Lionel Messi’s brief international retirement in 2016.
Three defeats in major international finals in three years had morale at rock bottom and the relationship between the local press and players deteriorated to such an extent that Messi led the entire squad out to a press conference to announce a media blackout just three months after Bauza’s arrival.
It would be a baptism of fire that would see him Bauza from saint to sinner. He had no friendlies and very little time to work with his players, and frequently found himself without Messi.
The Barcelona man was available for just four of Bauza’s eight games in charge – Argentina won three of them. They would be the only three Bauza would win and, after a very fortunate 1-0 victory over Chile was followed up by a 2-0 defeat to Bolivia in March, he was sacked.
He had failed to implement a style of play or settle on his preferred personnel. With four matches remaining, Argentina sit outside South America’s automatic qualification slots for World Cup 2018. He lasted less than a year.
The UAE, then, offers a former saint the chance of a resurrection. And he knows the landscape.
“I know the football of that area because I worked four months in Saudi Arabia,” he told ESPN Argentina. “It’s not the Emirates but I know the nature of the players.”