Al Jazira’s dramatic shake up continued on Tuesday as they confirmed the long-awaited news they have re-appointed Abel Braga as head coach, replacing 60-year-old Belgian Eric Gerets.
– World Cup: UAE salvage late 1-0 win over minnows Timor Leste
– EPL: Team-by-team guide to pre-season fixtures and tours
– #360view: Scratch the surface and England’s cracks appear
– #360transfers: Juve boss will not stand in Paul Pogba’s way
The Pride of Abu Dhabi made the announcement via their Twitter account, declining to reveal the contract length the 62-year-old Brazilian agreed on his return to the club he led to Arabian Gulf League, President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup success between 2008-11. It brings a premature end to Gerets’ spell in charge after guiding his free-scoring side to second place in the top flight in his first season having signed a two-year deal on arrival from Qatar’s Lekhwiya last summer.
“Al Jazira Football Company announced that the Brazilian manager Abel Braga has officially signed a contract to coach the first football team, as a replacement of the Belgian Eric Gerets, and he will be presented to the media and fans later with a press conference,” a statement said.
Braga has been in contact with the capital giants for some time, a three-year contract worth €5 million (Dh21m) per annum believed to have been agreed previously. Official confirmation on the terms is expected to follow at his unveiling, which will not be immediate.
He will have the eye-catching additions of playmaker Thiago Neves and winger Gervinho under his control by then, the former already snapped up from Saudi Arabia giants Al Hilal for €11m (Dh45m) and the latter set to finalise a €13m (Dh53m) move from Roma when he returns from international duty with Ivory Coast.
— AlJazira FC Official (@AlJazira_uae) June 16, 2015
UAE centre-back Fares Juma is also expected to imminently complete a move to escape the substitute’s bench at Al Ain, providing much-needed strengthening to a side who possessed the third-worst defensive record in AGL last season despite their high finish.
Braga is an iconic figure from Jazira’s past thanks to the league and President’s Cup double won in 2010/11. The former Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil centre-back becomes the seventh coach to join the capital giants since his departure four years ago, none able to replicate his success.
His latest post represents the 29th of a well-travelled coaching career, most recently exiting Internacional in his homeland last December after a disappointing run.
Expectations will be high for Braga and he will be expected to improve on the previous campaign. Jazira bombed out early in the President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup, failed to progress from the AFC Champions League qualifiers and finished nine points behind AGL champions Al Ain after an awful final run which included three defeats in their last five matches.
A post-season meeting between Gerets, the technical committee and chairman His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan last month sealed his fate, the delay coming as negotiations on his severance package were agreed.
Ahmed Saeed Al Marzouki was also announced as Jazira’s new first-team supervisor, replacing Mohammed Salem – the brother of Al Ain and UAE centre-back Mohanad.
Bani Yas stadium will host the Arabian Gulf Super Cup clash between Al Ain and Al Nasr, the Pro League Committee (PLC) confirmed yesterday.
The match, which is the curtainraiser for the new season, will take place on Saturday, August 15 with a 19:45 kick-off.
The decision was made during the PLC Executive meeting at its headquarters at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City where a range of issues were discussed on how to improve for next season.
PLC CEO Suhail Al Areefi said: “Bani Yas is a great stadium and has a capacity of 10,000 and this number is fine for us.”
When asked why the venue was chosen, he replied: “The final has to be played in Abu Dhabi and there is only the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium and Al Wahda. Al Jazira’s stadium will be undergoing some maintenance work while there is not enough parking places at Al Wahda for this big game.”
As Caio Canedo fired in the humilating final goal during February’s 4-0 home routing by Al Wasl, a torrent of deafening abuse rained down at Cosmin Olaroiu from the rebellious Rashid Stadium-stands.
There seemed no way he would survive another day in the Al Ahli hot seat. Yet fast forward to this Saturday and the Romanian was pictured putting pen to paper on a lucrative two-year contract extension until 2018.
Compare his standing with Eric Gerets at Al Jazira, and you see a pair of coaches boasting high achievements in the Arabian Gulf. But while Olaroiu has been boosted by this weekend’s show of faith, the Belgian’s representatives are negotiating his exit from Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium after one season as fabled successor Abel Braga awaits his return.
This contrasting treatment speaks volumes about the side’s approaches.
— Ahdaaf (@ahdaafme) June 14, 2015
The Pride of Abu Dhabi seem always to be chasing the latest trend, never scared to throw cash in pursuit of silverware. Brazil playmaker Thiago Neves has already been brought in this month, while Roma winger Gervinho’s transfer will imminently be completed.
Braga’s re-appointment has not come cheap, a three-year contract worth €15 million (Dh62.1m) ready to be signed off to make him the seventh supremo in four years since his 2011 exit.
But Ahli – first under Spaniard Quique Sanchez Flores from 2011- 13 – have learned stability can have much greater value.
At the height of their winter of discontent, it can now be revealed approaches from third-parties to both then Ivory Coast boss Herve Renard – now at Lille – and ex-Argentina supremo Alejandro Sabella were made as the Red Knights considered the veryreal possibility of regime change.
Olaroiu had also previously been made aware Saudi Arabia desired a more permanent relationship than the one-month loan deal signed for the Asian Cup, though January’s disappointing group-stage exit curtailed this.
Club suitors from the Kingdom remained in plentiful supply however, regularly linked in the media with an Al Hilal homecoming or the berths at Al Ittihad and Al Shabab Riyadh.
Yet Ahli rightly held back at the time from any denouement despite witnessing a dismal Arabian Gulf League title defence and this trust in the Middle East’s pre-eminent coach has been rewarded.
This unmatched ability to draw out unprecedented achievement was on show in the 2015 AFC Champions League, a club-first berth in the quarter-finals approaching.
There is no better man to be in charge, Olaroiu also hoovering up trophies at Hilal, Qatar’s Al Sadd and UAE rivals Al Ain. This is why the Boss kicked up such a fuss in July 2013 when he defected to Dubai, involving rescinded six-month bans and suspended jail sentences.
It would have been the height of impatience and disloyalty to part company with Olaroiu, despite last term’s seventh-placed finish.
The 46-year-old and Ahli can be a winning ticket again, evoking memories of his 2013/14 debut which brought the AGL, Arabian Gulf Cup and Arabian Gulf Super Cup. A high-profile and dominant centre forward will be bought this summer, correcting a chronic lack of goals.
Jazira’s latest no-expense-spared shake up might stop Olaroiu’s domestic redemption. But Ahli’s measured approach brings a muchhigher probability of glory.