Coach Zlatko Dalic’s excellent overall record of success at Al Ain is the reason why he has earned a one-year contract extension at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, according to interim club chairman Ghanem Al Hajeri.
Dalic has lifted the 2014/15 Arabian Gulf League title and the 2014 President’s Cup with the Boss. But the chances of the 49-year-old Croatian extending his two-and-a-half-year stay in the Garden City looked bleak a little over a month ago, despite leading them into the quarter-finals of the 2016 AFC Champions League.
Only last August’s 4-2 triumph against Al Nasr in the final of the season-opening Arabian Gulf Super Cup prevented his team from ending the 2015/16 campaign without a trophy. They ceded their top-flight title to bitter rivals Al Ahli and also suffered defeat on penalties to Al Jazira in the final of May’s President’s Cup.
The club’s hierarchy, however, have decided Dalic is still the man to restore the Boss to power next season.
“He deserves to be with us next season,” said Al Hajeri as Al Ain unveiled marquee summer signings Amer Abdulrahman and Caio at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday night.
“There are standards (at Al Ain) and he has superseded all of these. He has achieved our aspirations and his results are evidence of this. He has achieved a lot in his two years with us and there is not another coach who has done this.”
Despite a largely lacklustre 2015/16, the former Al Hilal coach has impressively steered the club into the last eight of the Champions League. They will face Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv Tashkent over two legs, the first of which will be played in the Garden City next month.
The fact that they are even in the knockout stages is another feather in Dalic’s cap after Al Ain lost their opening two group games.
“Zlatko knows Al Ain very well. He has achieved glory here,” said first team supervisor Mohammad Obaid Hamad, who is confident the coach can lead Al Ain to the final and secure a first continental trophy since their 2003 triumph.
“We lost the President’s Cup but it was not a mistake of Zlatko. We have big challenges next season. Every season we have new challenges and he will try his best to win more trophies.
“We have a chance of reaching the Champions League final. This is my vision but we need to prepare well and take the match (against Lokomotiv) seriously. We need to do our best and not make mistakes.”
The capture of Bani Yas midfielder Abdulrahman has added another UAE international to Al Ain’s Emirati arsenal and has allowed the club to dump Brazilian Fellipe Bastos from their four-player foreign quota. This will contain winger Caio, purchased from Kashima Antlers, and deadly compatriot Douglas, plus Colombian wideman Danilo Asprilla and South Korea midfielder Lee Myung-joo.
The club had previously been linked with Al Dhafra’s Syria forward Omar Khrbin, who took the AGL by storm following his January arrival with nine goals in 12 games, but Hamad denied the club had pursued the 22-year-old.
Sharjah’s 21-year-old attacker Yousef Saeed is another player the club are said to be interested in, while Abdulrahman’s former Sky Blues midfield partner Fawaz Awana is expected to imminently join him at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.