Ex-Al Wasl assistant Pedro Carmona is convinced he can achieve the ambitious goal of becoming “the best coach in the Middle East” thanks to hard lessons learned during his European return.
Carmona, 34, was a long-term ally of Argentinian tactician Gabriel Calderon at Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, Bani Yas, Bahrain, La Liga’s Real Betis and the Cheetahs. He broke away in November 2015 to become part of Engishman Gary Neville’s staff at Valencia, before his first stint as head coach saw a 73-year wait ended for minnows Estoril to enter the Taca de Portugal‘s semi-finals.
The Spaniard has been unemployed since March because of indifferent form in the Primeira Liga and changing targets from the Canarinhos rulers.
“My experience in Portugal was fine, all experiences are good,” said Carmona, who won two, drew two and lost nine of his games in charge of a relegation-threatened side.
“If you don’t have a very good team, you can’t do many things. I left because the owner wanted to be fighting for the Champions League and Europa League – that is all.
“I love the Middle East and I worked there for five years. I know the culture of the footballers there.
“My target is to be a big coach, the best coach in the Middle East.
“Always you learn. I am a better coach after Valencia and Estoril.”
Carmona was drafted in by a struggling team last December. The highlight of his tenure was taking Estoril to a 5-4 aggregate loss to giants Benfica in the cup’s last four.
This experience of battling Portugal’s finest has emboldened him.
He said: “The main things I learned in Estoril was to be effective. It is difference when you start with a team in July for pre-season, or start in the middle of the season.
“Portugal is a very-competitive league and I played against Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon.”
Carmona won the Saudi Professional League and Crown Prince Cup double at Hilal in 2010/11, plus helped lead Bani to their knockout-stage debut in the 2012 AFC Champions League.
He hoped the kind of mentality change which saw Wasl shine under the youthful Rodolfo Arruabarrena last term, could lead to a premium Arabian Gulf League post.
“Here in Europe, it is normal to sign a young coach,” Carmona said.
“But in the Middle East, they like coaches who are 60-years old. Young coaches are hungry.”
Uzbekistan star Sardor Rashidov could wing in as the newly-formed Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club’s first major purchase, but excellent Brazil playmaker Everton Ribeiro is set to make an immediate exit.
UAE football was rocked nearly two weeks ago when Al Shabab, Ahli and newly-promoted Dubai were surprisingly amalgamated. The new body’s leadership have met up since to plot out their plans for 2017/18.
A vacancy exists for the one Asian slot in the four-player foreign quota, which 25-year-old Rashidov could fill after interest was registered.
Despite scoring 23 goals in 48 Qatar Stars League games for El Jaish, the wide man has been made available for transfer since the integration with Lekhwiya last month because of South Korea attacking midfielder and reigning Qatar Football Association Player of the Year Nam Tae-hee’s supreme form.
One player not sticking around is Ribeiro. Extensive reports in his native country on Friday said a €7 million (Dh28.7m) deal had been agreed to sell him to Flamengo.
Ribeiro, 28, won the 2015/16 Arabian Gulf League’s title following a February 2015 move from Cruzeiro.
Of the rest of the non-Emirati quartet, Senegal striker Makhete Diop is almost certain to be retained after he rocketed in 16 goals in 22 run-outs since a December move from Al Dhafra. Shabab’s Moldova forward Henrique Luvannor could join him at the new club.
Meanwhile, ex-Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is set to be unveiled by Al Nasr on Monday night. The 59-year-old is replacing Romania’s Dan Petrescu.
If Edgardo Bauza’s first UAE squad is a barometer of what is to come, then the early signs look promising.
Pleasant surprises came with the rewards for goalkeeper Rashid Ali and winger Tariq Ahmed for fine campaigns with President’s Cup winners Al Wahda, while exciting Al Jazira prospect Khalfan Mubarak – a creator who never gained Mahdi Ali’s full trust – retained his spot in the 30-man list.
But the true test of Bauza’s vision will come when his tactical approach is unveiled. Central to this is how Omar Abdulrahman’s continued supreme form for Al Ain in the AFC Champions League can belatedly be translated into the race to make World Cup 2018?
A fixation on an outmoded 4-4-2 formation has hampered both the Whites throughout the quest for just a second-ever entry to football’s grandest event, and the influence of their greatest player. These problems were glaring in March’s costly defeats to Japan and Australia.
Accomplished opponents with five-man midfields dominated possession. This issue was accentuated by the perplexing free role given to playmaker ‘Amoory’, which only further constrained him as it made a stretched midfield more lopsided.
Worryingly for the 2016 AFC Player of the Year, he has so far only plundered three goals in qualifying. When reviewing his contemporaries, this is three less than Japan’s Shinji Kagawa and Saudi Arabia’s timeless Taisir Al Jassim.
He also has failed to score during seven matches in the third-and-final round.
A switch to the 4-2-3-1 regularly used by Bauza with Argentina, and which is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern football, is key to a potential upturn. Joint-top scorer – with 15 – Ahmed Khalil is happy to play as a wide forward, plus accomplished anchormen such as Al Ahli’s Khamis Esmail and Al Nasr’s Tariq Ahmed can provide a solid base.
Such an approach would give ‘Amoory’ space to strike, without his team giving up the ball. Only then can the magic touches required to prosper in Thailand on June 13 be supplied.