Marcel Keizer is yet to make a definitive decision about whether to swiftly end his successful five-month stay at Al Jazira and accept an alluring approach from Portugal giants Sporting Lisbon.
Keizer, 49, has become the main target for Leoes president Frederico Varandas since head coach Jose Peseiro was dismissed on November 1. Defeat to second-tier Estoril in the Taca de Liga proved terminal for the ex-Al Wahda and Sharjah tactician, who also departed with the 18-time Primeira Liga champions a disappointing fifth in the top flight.
Wild reports in the Portuguese media stated that Keizer had landed at Lisbon Portela Airport on Monday morning. The ex-Ajax supremo, however, remained at the team hotel in Abu Dhabi to continue usual preparations for the evening’s meeting with Al Wasl – potentially his final match in charge – at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in the Arabian Gulf League.
Jazira’s management have been wowed by the summer replacement for legendary fellow Dutchman Henk ten Cate and are loathe to release him. A two-year agreement which contained financial terms that are, by far, the most-lucrative of his 11-year coaching career was only inked in June.
Sporting have turned to Keizer after approaches for lauded countrymen Frank Rijkaard, Frank de Boer and Peter Bosz met with defeat. Another two-year deal, worth €1 million per annum gross, was reported to have been presented by Diario de Noticias.
Intriguingly, Jazira doctor Joao Pedro Araujo – a friend of ex-Al Ahli and Wasl midfielder Hugo Viana, who is currently Sporting’s director of international relations – has already agreed to join Leoes.
Keizer has rehabilitated his coaching career after a promotion from Jong Ajax to the senior team ended with the sack in December 2017, after less than six miserable months at the helm.
Last month’s 2-0 triumph at champions Al Ain underlined the value of his work.
Keizer also counts minnows Argon, VVSB, Telstar, FC Emmen and SC Cambuur among his former postings.
Former Spain and Real Madrid centre forward Alvaro Negredo struck on Sunday for the sixth-successive Arabian Gulf League match to continue Al Nasr’s revival with a deserved 2-0 win against Al Dhafra.
Negredo, 33, arrived in Dubai from Turkey’s Besiktas this summer with a huge reputation after spells at clubs that also include Sevilla and Manchester City. He has quickly recovered from a penalty miss on debut against champions Al Ain to rattle in nine goals during the next seven matches in all competitions.
This exceptional spell continued apace at Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium. A long ball from ex-France midfielder Yohan Cabaye picked out Negredo on 28 minutes, who did the rest with a slotted finish into the bottom corner.
The Blue Wave’s cruise towards victory continued two minutes before the break when Khalid Ali Aldarmaki unluckily deflected a cross into his own goal.
Victory saw Ivan Jovanovic’s men move further away from the relegation spots. The Serbian’s troops lost their opening four fixtures, but are now undefeated in five.
Dhafra, however, sit one place above the drop zone after they recorded a second-successive loss.
Meanwhile, holders Al Ain struck in both halves to earn a 2-0 triumph against promoted Bani Yas and avert talk of a crisis.
The Boss had lost two of their last three fixtures – at home to rivals Al Jazira and Sharjah. There were no worries of a repeat at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium as UAE prospect Rayan Yaslam converted from close range and Egypt midfielder Hussein El Shahat struck from distance.
They now only trail leaders Sharjah by two points after their 2-2 draw with yo-yo side Ittihad Kalba.
The visitors to Khaled bin Mohamed Stadium twice fought back to claim a share of the spoils. Igor Coronado and Saif Rashid scored for Sharjah, with Myke Ramos and Balazs Dzsudzsak responding.
Coach Zoran Mamic is convinced Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain are not “in a bad period”, despite looking to end a shock losing spell against promoted Bani Yas on Sunday.
The top fight and President’s Cup double winners were turned over by title rivals Al Jazira and Sharjah during two of their last three matches. This has led to talk of a crisis at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
“I’m not happy with the outcome in the last round, for sure, because no one likes to lose,” Mamic said. “We want to be stronger, more focused and more effective than in our last game on the pitch.
“Bani Yas is a very good team and has made strong performances against strong teams such as Al Jazira and Al Wasl.
“I do not think that we are currently in a bad period, but we have lost two games and at the moment of loss we need real support.”
Meanwhile, surprise leaders Sharjah are fully aware of the danger posed by yo-yo club Ittihad Kalba’s imposing foreign legion.
Hungary winger Balazs Dzsudzsak and Ivory Coast forward Giovanni Sio have both impressed since their summer arrivals.
“This season, there are no easy teams and most of the clubs have succeeded in their contracts with foreigners,” said Sharjah boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari, whose charges boast a four-point cushion to Jazira.
Al Nasr tactician Ivan Jovanovic is confident 2018/19 can still bring joy to his side.
Alvaro Negredo and Yohan Cabaye’s Blue Wave are unbeaten in their last four games, after losing their opening quartet.
“There are still 18 games remaining in the league, and the opportunity is still available for the team to restore its normal position,” said Jovanovic ahead of the visit of improving Al Dhafra.