If this is to be goodbye to both coaches following Sunday night’s emotional President’s Cup final, they leave with their reputations firmly enhanced.
For victorious Al Jazira supremo Henk ten Cate, Al Ain centre-back Mohanad Salem’s wild missed penalty in the shootout saw a five-month salvage job transform into something far more glorious.
No decision has been officially made by either coach or club about the 61-year-old’s future, with an interesting sub-plot being that the man he defeated yesterday could be the one to send him into a second retirement.
If persistent rumours are to be believed, Zlatko Dalic may become the ninth coach in five years to step through the revolving door at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. The capital side simply cannot help themselves and Ten Cate’s deflated body language in the post-match presser – the sweltering heat can’t have helped – did hint that a disappointing decision may already have been made.
A contract allowed to lapse without challenge by Al Ain has granted the chance at a change of scenery for Dalic, who arrived to little fanfare in March 2014 and now exits as one of the Middle East’s premier bosses.
Not even the fact that only the Arabian Gulf Super Cup was claimed during his second full season in charge at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium can detract from that statement.
The 49-year-old is determined to stay in the region and has a point to prove after a difficult 2015/16, progression to the AFC Champions League quarter-finals aside.
A return to Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal is a distant possibility, while prime posts at Al Ahli Jeddah and Qatar’s Lekhwiya could open up. But the challenge, if offered, to build on this encouraging ending of Jazira’s four-season trophy drought would be one to embrace.
He has worked wonders this term to get Al Ain challenging on all fronts even when the purse strings have been tightened and poor foreign additions such as Danilo Asprilla and Ryan Babel have been given to him.
At Jazira, another campaign in Asia’s premier club competition has been earned by this triumph and the new boss should have the pleasure of working with 30-goal striker Ali Makhout.
Dalic’s proven ability to succeed in the UAE makes him the perfect candidate to translate cup joy into top-flight dominance.
Jazira’s ruthless streak means such a calculation might have already occurred in their boardroom.
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