Laurentiu Reghecampf hopes that Al Wahda will finally mount a serious Arabian Gulf League title challenge after years of false dawns.
The Romanian was unveiled as the Clarets’ new coach yesterday and insisted the Abu Dhabi giants are strong enough to lift a first domestic crown in eight years.
The Al Nahyan outfit have recorded second and third-placed finishes in the last four campaigns, as well as won the President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup in the last two. Yet they have failed to seriously trouble the UAE’s elite since hoisting a fourth UAE title in 2009/10 – and first of the professional era.
“The team is strong. They’ve played together for a few years and they know each other. I hope with my knowledge and experience I can bring the team to fight for the championship,” Reghecampf, the two time former Steaua Bucurest and ex-Al Hilal supremo, said.
“Everybody knows we have very good players. The team is very strong. With these players I think we can have success and win trophies.
“For me it’s a big challenge to win a trophy. Everywhere I go I want to win. My work is to be a strong team and, why not, to win the championship.”
Despite finishing runners-up to Al Ahli in the 2013/14 campaign, Wahda were a woeful 16 points adrift of the Red Knights. The nearest they finished behind the champions was the next campaign when they still trailed champions Al Ain by 13 points.
Since their last triumph, Wahda have consistently failed to seriously challenge for the AGL title – finishing 22, 22, 23, 16, 13 and 23 points adrift of top spot in the following seven seasons. Last year saw them finish even further off the top than before – a huge 29 points behind runaway champions, and capital city nieghbours, Al Jazira.
But having led the Crescent to the 2015 AFC Champions League final – albeit they were upset in a 1-0 defeat to Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers – Reghecampf feels his previous experience of Middle Eastern football is an advantage to him.
“I think it is our job to work under pressure,” said the 41-year-old.
“You need to do this if you want success. I like this and working in big clubs. The pressure is not a problem for me.
“I liked the time spent in Saudi Arabia. I had big moment with them (Hilal) and I remember nice things about the club and country. I hope this experience will help me in Al Wahda.
“I like the championship, I like the climate. When I finished the contract with Hilal I had some meetings about some clubs in the Emirates. I like it here. The football has come up. They have amazing teams, amazing players, great coaches.”
Despite setting his sights high, the man capped once by the Tricolorii in a 2003 ???? with Denmark, is realistic of Wahda’s chances of league glory next season.
“We hope we can change that (having not won the title in so long,” he said.
“It’s very difficult. It’s a very strong competition. You have three, four or five teams every year trying to win it. It’s not easy. We will work together and we hope to this year have better results. You have teams with fantastic players and excellent coaches.”
The former Energie Cottbus midfielder, who has signed a one-year deal at Al Nahyan, aimed a slight dig at predecessor Javier Aguirre by insisting he wants Wahda to play more offensive football under his reign.
Although Wahda scored more goals (54) last year than in any other previous AGL campaign in the modern era, they also drew nine games, the second most in the league.
He added: “I don’t want to speak about last season. I see a lot of games. They had a great coach with great experience. I think I have to make the team more offensive.
“Fans want to see the team score a lot of goals, have a lot of possession, and for these things I have to work hard, with the players.”
Wahda will return to pre-season next week and then head to Egypt for the Arab Club Championship taking place between July 21 and August 5. The Clarets have been drawn in Group A alongside home favourites Al Ahly with the winners of the three groups and the best-placed runner-up qualifying for the semi-finals.
Al Ain are yet to make a definitive decision about who will fill the vital last foreign slot, with a trio of Brazilian attackers featuring heavily in their thoughts.
The Boss have already this summer recruited Sweden centre forward Marcus Berg from Panathinaikos and Japan defensive utility man Tsukasa Shiotani of Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Sights have now been set on adding a sharpened offensive edge to a side who face Saudi Arabian heavyweights Al Hilal in the 2017 AFC Champions League quarter-finals and are desperate to improve upon last term’s poor fourth-placed finish in the Arabian Gulf League.
Partizan Belgrade forward Leonardo, who was joint-top scorer in the 2016/17 Serbian SuperLiga with 24 goals, rising Parana Clube playmaker Renatinho and winger Guilherme of Ekstraklasa holders Legia Warsaw are all under consideration.
The UAE’s most-decorated club are currently studying a 10-man shortlist ahead of August 6’s deadline to be registered for the latter stages of Asian competition.
Whomever comes into the four-player foreign quota will compliment retained Brazil attacker Caio, who impressed with 18 goals in 45 matches during his debut campaign.
Of the confirmed targets, Leonardo would represent the most-exciting addition. The 25-year-old excelled last term after joining on a three-year deal from Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkala, helping his new employers to a SuperLiga and Serbian Cup double.
But the peripatetic man who has also competed in Brazil, Belgium, Cyprus, Ukraine and Azerbaijan is valued at €5 million (Dh21m), plus his favourite role as an inverted left winger would see him compete with Caio.
Al Ain previously baulked at a €5.2m (Dh21.8m) request for Berg, eventually paying just €3m (Dh12.6m) for an esteemed player who currently leads the line for Sweden.
The diminutive Guilherme, 26, has spent the last four seasons in Poland after he failed to breakthrough at Portugal’s Braga. During this time, he has scored 11 times in 84 top-flight run-outs and won the league three times.
Renatinho, 25, represents an emerging talent in Campeonato Brasileiro Serie B. He is available for €2.5m (Dh10.5m) after scoring nine goals in 25 games for Parana.
Al Ain have entered negotiations for emerging Brazilian forward Renatinho as they seek to close their foreign business.
Renatinho, 25, has earned rave reviews at Parana Clube – who compete in Campeonato Brasileiro Serie B. His nine goals in 25 appearances for them from either out wide or behind the attacker has seen the Boss begin talks about a €2.5 million (Dh10.5m) deal.
The skilful Foz do Iguacu-native’s stirring performances have drawn previous attention, with other Asian sides and top-flight Coritiba trying to procure him earlier in the year.
His prospective new employers in the UAE are working from an initial 10-man player shortlist ahead of August 6’s deadline to complete their non-Emirati quartet in time to be registered for the latter stages of the 2017 AFC Champions League.
Al Ain have already bought prolific Sweden centre forward Marcus Berg from Panathinaikos and Japan’s defensive utility man Tsukasa Shiotani from Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
They have only chosen to retain electric Brazilian attacker Caio from last term’s list after a productive debut campaign upon arrival from Kashima Antlers, which contained 18 goals in 45 run-outs.
The Emirates’ most-decorated outfit are determined to improve upon last term’s domestic misery. They finished a distant fourth in the Arabian Gulf League, exited the President’s Cup in the quarter-finals and didn’t make it out of the Arabian Gulf Cup’s group stage to make it two-successive seasons without a trophy.
E ontem foi assim! Renatinho, R10, o 'REI'natinho fez o 5º gol dele no campeonato e deu a vitória para o Tricolor! pic.twitter.com/X1rhsebeQA— Paraná Clube (@ParanaClube) March 30, 2017
Chairman Ghanim Al Hajeri revealed during Wednesday’s announcement of Berg’s heralded arrival that his board are perfectly in tune with Croatian coach Zoran Mamic’s demands ahead of his first full campaign at the helm.
“The report by coach Zoran was clear, it included all the needs of his team to achieve the desired goals accurately for the next stage,” he said.
In regards to the fourth foreign slot, Al Ain have also been linked to Al Nassr and Brazil defender Bruno Uvini – a player Mamic managed until his February defection to the Garden City – plus prolific Partizan Belgrade forward Leonardo Souza.
If Renatinho is the player they chose to proceed with, he will be expected to help provide the ammuntion for Berg.
‘R10’ came through Clube Atletico Paranaense’s academy, going on to feature for a number of smaller Brazilian sides.
In regards to outgoings, the Boss are in talks to sell erratic Colombian winger Danilo Asprilla to Turkey’s Bursaspor.
South Korea midfielder Lee Myung-joo has left for FC Seoul and they chose not to renew Saudi Arabia striker Nasser Al Shamrani’s loan from Al Hilal – their upcoming ACL last-eight opponents.