Bani Yas select former Croatia midfielder Krunoslav Jurcic as man to lead AGL return

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krunoslav Jurcic (l) at his Bani Yas unveiling (Twitter/@BaniYasClub).

Promoted Bani Yas have selected ex-Croatia defensive midfielder Krunoslav Jurcic as man to guide them back into the Arabian Gulf League.

Jurcic, 48, was unveiled by the First Division League champions on Monday at Bani Yas Stadium. He fills the vacancy left by the ruthless dismissal of Goran Tufegdzic, despite the Serbian securing an instant return to the top flight after 2016/17’s painful relegation.

The new man has most recently found employment in Saudi Arabia. He led a ‘B’ team to a group-stage elimination at the winter’s Gulf Cup that featured a goalless draw with the UAE, then lasted just nine games in charge of faltering Riyadh giants Al Nassr in the Saudi Professional League.

But the former Torino and Sampdoria player boasts rich experience in the dugout. A total of five trophies were won by him during three stints in charge of Dinamo Zagreb, while he’s also led teams in Slovenia (Maribor) and Turkey (Adanaspor).

The average win percentage accrued by him in 13 years managing across 10 different posts is 52.1 per cent, a figure that will give the Sky Blues board confidence that he can avoid an instant relegation.

They are yet to announce any additions to their squad.

Martinique winger Harry Novillo’s previous defection to Malaysia Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim has robbed Jurcic of a major goal threat.

On-loan Al Ittihad Alexandria forward Manucho struck 11 times in 12 appearances last term, but there has been no announcement made about his future.

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Pep Guardiola inspiration Raul Caneda receives Bani Yas and Emirates Club AGL offers

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Raul Caneda (r) with Marcello Lippi (l).

Pep Guardiola-acolyte Raul Caneda is in advanced talks with both Emirates Club and Bani Yas about a debut switch to the Arabian Gulf League, with a successful conclusion expected shortly.

Caneda, 49, has earned a burgeoning reputation after leading both Al Ittihad and Al Nassr to success during spells in the Saudi Professional League. A profound impact on the career of Manchester City revolutionary Guardiola was also exerted when the pair bonded at Mexico’s Dorados de Sinaloa in 2006.

Such achievements have made the Spaniard a coveted tactician after his spell as an external analyst at the runaway Premier League champions.

Both UAE sides are convinced the ex-Real Sociedad and Almeria assistant can comfortably lead them to safety in next season’s 14-team, expanded top flight. Plus, apply an expansive style of football in the process.

Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club made contact earlier in the summer as they plan a refresh in the wake of a trying inaugural season. However, they are expected to imminently announce a deal for fellow Ittihad alumnus Jose Luis Sierra, 49, of Chile.

Bani Yas stormed to the First Division League’s title under Goran Tufegdzic, at the first time of asking following 2016/17’s painful relegation. The Serbian was then immediately dismissed as they targeted a bigger name for the coming season.

Another ex-Ittihad tactician in Romania’s Victor Piturca is also on the Sky Blues’ wanted list.

Caneda’s other UAE suitor, Emirates Club, came through a trying promotion/relegation play-off against the second tier’s Al Hamriyah earlier this month.

This tense 1-0 aggregate triumph guaranteed a sixth-successive season in the AGL. Syria’s Nizar Mahrous was drafted in during April as an emergency saviour for the second-bottom Falcons, but is not expected to remain in situ for 2018/19.

This has opened the door for Caneda in Ras Al Khaimah.

His last coaching stint was a fourth-month return to Nassr at the end of 2015/16. There, he led a side that had floundered under Italy icon Fabio Cannavaro to a 2-1 loss against Al Ahli Jeddah in the King’s Cup final.

Caneda had previously led the Riyadh heavyweights to 12 victories and one defeat from May 2014-October 2014, before severe internal problems forced his departure.

A similar tale had unfolded at Ittihad from February 2012-February 2013. A club-record 25-match unbeaten spell was achieved, prior to institutional issues causing his contract to be broken.

Meanwhile, promoted Fujairah have sealed the return of midfielder Humaid Ahmed from Al Jazira. Ahmed, 30, made just seven AGL appearances for the capital side after departing the Wolves after 2015/16’s relegation.

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Ittihad Kalba plans to shed yo-yo AGL reputation begins with signing of Florentin Matei

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Florentin Matei in action.

Yo-yo club Ittihad Kalba’s plans for their latest Arabian Gulf League-return have begun to take shape with the signing of Romanian midfielder Florentin Matei from Croatia’s Rijeka on a one-year deal.

Matei, 25, is this summer’s first foreign addition by the First Division League’s runners-up. Their success last term under Iraq’s 2007 Asian Cup-winning coach Jorvan Vieira extended a lengthy period of instant promotions and relegations that stretches back to 2009/10.

To end this frustrating spell, a positive impact from the non-Emirati quartet will be key.

Matei arrives on the east coast after he scored four times in 13 matches on loan at Astra Giurgiu, who finished fifth in Romania’s Liga 1.

He had previously struck seven times in 52 games at Rijeka since arriving from the Ukrainian Premier League’s Volyn Lutsk. Italy’s Cesena, plus Romania’s Unirea Urziceni and Steaua Bucharest, also count among his previous employers.

Junior international caps were also won with his nation’s Under-17 (two) and U-19 (three) sides between 2010-11.

His latest side have secured a one-season contract extension with Vieira, 64, to lead them back into the top flight. The Brazilian took over in January and critically inspired a six-match winning run at the end of the season to pip Diego Maradona’s Fujairah to an automatic spot.

Kalba brought in Moroccan attackers Abderrahim Makran and Omar Mansouri on loan for the second half of the season. No announcement has been made about whether the pair will be retained.

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