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.
Victorious boss Henk ten Cate refused to be drawn on his future after he ended Al Jazira’s four-year trophy drought last night with a dramatic shootout win against Al Ain in the President’s Cup final.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi had UAE centre-back Mohanad Salem’s decisive striking of the woodwork to thank as they lifted silverware for the first time since 2012’s triumph in the same competition.
This marked the completion of the short-term contract the Dutchman signed in December when he took over from disastrous re-appointment Abel Braga.
“We are speaking,” said Ten Cate, 61, when pressed on the possibility of a renewal. “But let’s talk about the celebrations.
“I am not so important. The fact of the matter is we won the President’s Cup. This is a big thing for the club.”
He added: “I have not seen my daughter and my mother for five months. This is my first aim and first objective, to go home and enjoy the company of my family.”
Opposite number Zlatko Dalic retained pride in the work of his squad, despite his successful stint in the Garden City – which began in March 2014 – now likely to be ending on a sour note.
The concession of the AGL title to rivals Al Ahli is expected to cost him his job, and he said: “First I take rest, it has been 11 months of hard work. My target is to stay in this region, which club I won’t say.”
“Mabrook for Jazira for the trophy, and bad luck for my team,” the Croat added. “But after this game, I can just be proud of my players.”
The South Korea midfielder has had a frustrating first campaign at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, netting just once in 37 appearances since his summer move from Chinese Super League outfit Guangzhou R&F.
Having finished a distant seventh in the Arabian Gulf League with Jazira, the 27-year-old can claim his first piece of silverware if they prevail against six-time winners Al Ain in Sunday’s final.
While he’s been satisfied with his own performances, Park is determined to play a big role and see the Pride of Abu Dhabi clinch just their third President’s Cup.
“I came straight from China and haven’t had any rest. I haven’t shown my best yet and it’s not been a very good season for me,” he said. “I hope it (a good performance) comes against Al Ain, but I must work hard.”
Since the AGL season finished on May 8, the Pride of Abu Dhabi have found their self-belief in this competition. They twice came from behind to defeat Sharjah on penalties, before Ali Mabkhout’s hat-trick was enough to beat Ahli 3-2 in the semi-finals.
With AGL runners-up Al Ain also searching for their first major trophy this term, Park remains wary of the Garden City club, having lost twice to their rivals in the league this season.
“They have some very good players and obviously Omar Abdulrahman is a threat while Douglas and Danilo Asprillo are quite formidable,” he said. “We know they are dangerous as a unit.”
Park is still hurting from their dismal league showings that saw Abel Braga replaced in December by Henk ten Cate after three wins in 16 games and the South Korean has urged his team-mates to focus on stopping Zlatko Dalic’s troops.
“No-one expected us to do badly in the league but it’s happened,” he said. “We must forget about it because if we want to win back our pride, we have to win this final.
“The game is a very important for us. This has to be one of the most important games of the season and it’s one that we must win.”
Meanwhile, Park’s team-mate Kenwyne Jones has played down suggestions that Al Jazira will have the advantage after Al Ain’s participation in the AFC Champions League midweek.
The Boss come into this crucial encounter on the back of a 3-1 aggregate win over Zob Ahan to reach the quarters on Wednesday.
But the former Sunderland striker insists their opponents will be fired up as they look to end their season on a high.
“There is no advantage,” said the 31-year-old. “You’ve seen around the world that you think teams have the advantage because they have better players or more money. But football is an unpredictable game and we have to give 100 per cent effort and hope for the best.”