Mamic, 46, replaced fellow Croatian Zlatko Dalic in the hot seat at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on February 1, 2017. The Boss went trophyless in 2016/17, but they’ve set the pace in the Arabian Gulf League for much of this season.
“The truth is that I had a great time during my first year with Al Ain,” said the ex-Dinamo Zagreb and Al Nassr supremo, ahead of Saturday’s visit of promoted Ajman.
“At the beginning of the mission, we were suffering from many problems.
Now the situation is different and the team is ready.
“We are on the right track, but football without trophies does not mean anything. It’s now time to win, because it’s good that the strong results are crowned with important achievements.” Meanwhile, Al Dhafra boss Gjoko Hadzievski is expecting a stern examination despite the continuing struggles of champions Al Jazira.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi have not won any of their last four top-flight fixtures and sit a distant sixth.
“Al Jazira remains a great team, who managed to win the championship last season with impressive results,” said the Macedonian, whose side are bottom. “This is regardless of their recent league losses.” Saturday’s final fixture sees Ivan Jovanovic’s revolution at Al Nasr put to the test at Dibba Al Fujairah.
The Serb beat Jazira 1-0 last-time out, in his first match back at the Blue Wave who sacked him in 2016.
The 2002/03 winners are braced for another tilt at continental glory after second-half goals from Marcus Berg and Caio secured a 2-0 play-off win. Their Croatian coach had expressed worries about preparations in the build-up and he was happy to see these prove unfounded.
Mamic said: “I asked the players to show fighting spirit and seriousness of their football.
“If you do not play in the right image, it may expose some of the problems.”
Now a spot in Group D is secured, the Arabian Gulf League leaders play promoted Ajman on Saturday.
UAE internationals Omar Abdulrahman and Ahmed Barman are serious doubts after they came off injured on Tuesday.
“Amoory and Ahmed Barman are in need of tests to find out the details and the time needed for both to return. I hope they return quickly to the team,” said Mamic.
Omar Abdulrahman’s cloying comfort zone in Al Ain has, belatedly, became a little less snug.
The feted ‘Amoory’, crown prince of UAE football and indulged to a fault for all his past achievements, received the rarest of things on Tuesday night – a public rebuke.
Grizzled coach Zoran Mamic could not hold his tongue. The AFC had played to the grandstands and given the continent’s golden boy the man-of-the-match honours, despite a fitful display in the 2-0 Champions League play-off victory against Bahraini Premier League champions Malkiya.
“‘Amoory’ is a very-important player, but he did not make a good match,” said the grizzled ex-Croatia international after a display in which his underwhelming prized asset registered pass accuracy of 74.4 per cent and apathetically devolved his creative duties to Egypt’s excellent Hussein El Shahat.
“He made mistakes in many passes, wasted a lot of opportunities. Not good for Asian football.”
Not since being in the care of Cosmin Olaroiu from 2011-13 has such stark honesty been applied to a playmaker who has chosen to coast in his UAE bubble, rather than maximise his preternatural gifts.
‘Amoory’s’ incredible eight man-of-the-match gongs on the way to defeat in the 2016 final were richly deserved, as was his coronation as that year’s AFC Player of the Year.
Since then, both the statistics and the naked eye point to a rare talent stagnating. He was peripheral during much of the UAE’s failed World Cup 2018 qualification, letting now Al Ain team-mate Ahmed Khalil carry the attacking burden.
In the 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League, he registered the equal-second-most assists with 10. But an average of one every 192.9 minutes is hardly redolent of his ability.
This is also down on 2013/14 (16) and 2015/16 (12) – much of 2014/15 was a washout with injury. Since yet another summer move to Europe came to nought, this time the exasperated pursuers were Ligue 1’s Nice, he’s coasted through this term.
His ongoing domestic ban for breaking curfew the night before the Gulf Cup final is hotly disputed. What is not in question is the fact suspect preparations were followed by defeat on January 5 to minnows Oman, in which he horrifically missed two clutch penalties.
It has come to a point where ‘Amoory’ can be accused of living on reputation, his adoring public now treated to tantalising flashes of supreme talent.
Mamic’s pointed words must be heeded. A man previously tapped into the gold mine at Dinamo Zagreb knows what he is talking about.
Watch back Abdulrahman’s global breakout performances at the London 2012 Olympics. You’d think, at 26, he’d be breaking new ground at a European club.
It is sad to see what he’s become.