Henk ten Cate calls time on his trophy-laden Al Jazira coaching stint after ACL exit

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Al Jazira manager Henk ten Cate in Tehran.

Coach Henk ten Cate called an end to his transformative two-and-a-half-year stint at Al Jazira on Tuesday night, less than 24 hours after the painful 2018 AFC Champions League exit at Iran’s Persepolis.

Ten Cate, 63, informed his squad that he had chosen not to seek a renewal of his expiring contract mere hours since their arrival back in Abu Dhabi. This followed a trying 2017/18 stained by off-field issues, but one that still saw them come within minutes of stunning Real Madrid in December’s Club World Cup semi-finals and make the continental quarter-finals for the first time.

The ex-Barcelona and Chelsea assistant answered an emergency call in December 2015 once the hyped return of 2010/11 Arabian Gulf League title winner Abel Braga turned sour and an unlikely relegation battle began. A rapid transformation in fortunes caused the 2015/16 President’s Cup to be lifted, prior to 2016/17’s incredible second-ever top-flight title success.

Defending the latter crown proved impossible and they limped home seventh, with hyped summer additions such as ex-France anchorman Lassana Diarra swiftly terminating their deals. But Ten Cate’s popularity among the squad that remained was shown by his grateful send-off at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

“Thank you for everything you did for me and the team, we will miss you,” tweeted right-back Mohammed Fawzi. “You was like our father.

“You taught us to believe in ourselves and we can do everything – hard, easy – if we are together like a family.

“I hate to say goodbye. Just want to say good luck in your life boss, I’m proud to work with you.”

Ten Cate also turned down the Netherlands job in April 2017. He now signs off following this week’s near miss in Asia.

An 89th-minute half-volley from returning skipper Jalal Hosseini sent the 11-time Persian Gulf Pro League winners through on away goals in front of their baying, 80,000-capacity crowd at Azadi Stadium.

Brazilian forward Romarinho’s low leveller on the night on 70 minutes – soon after anchor man Ahmad Nourollahi’s thunderbolt – had seemed to be enough for Jazira.

Promising defenders Khalifa Al Hammadi, 19, and Mohammed Al Attas, 20, both performed admirably in Tehran – and throughout this term.

The promotion of these youngsters, plus emerging UAE midfielder Mohammed Jamal, will be Ten Cate’s lasting legacy in Abu Dhabi.

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