Former Rangers and Algeria captain Madjid Bougherra has been named as new coach of Arabian Gulf League outfit Fujairah.
The Wolves, who stayed in the UAE top-flight by the skin of their teeth last season, have turned to their former player to replace ex-UAE boss Dr Abdullah Mesfer, who had originally guided them into the AGL last term following a narrow promotion play-off triumph against Hatta.
Mesfer eventually replaced Argentina legend Diego Maradona last April following a hasty decision to sack the former Napoli and Barcelona player within hours of April 28’s failure to gain automatic promotion. Mesfer did then steer Fujairah back into the AGL, but was himself replaced by ex-Czech Republic, Al Ahli and Emirates Club boss Ivan Hasek – who returned to Fujairah Stadium for a second spell – in May.
Mesfer again answered the Wolves’ coaching call when Hasek failed to see out the 2018/19 season, which ended with a 3-1 final day triumph over Shabab Al Ahli Dubai that secured their survival and sent Emirates Club down.
The 36-year-old Bougherra will now take over on a permanent basis, with the club revealing the news on their Twitter feed.
Bougherra won 70 caps and scored four goals for Les Fennecs between 2004-15 and participated at both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He floated around England with Crewe, Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton Athletic for much of his career, having started out with Ligue 2 side Gueugnon in France, before winning three straight Scottish Premier League titles with Rangers from 2008-11.
He moved to Qatar’s Lekhwiya at the end of that season, before spending two seasons with Fujairah from 2014-2016.
Shrewdness is not a quality associated with Arabian Gulf League clubs at this time of year.
They, typically, lollop through the hectic summer transfer market. A near-sighted recklessness is then welcomed by rapacious agents eager to rid them of their dirhams.
Unheralded foreign additions are regularly recruited in July, via unscrupulous recommendation, and gone by January. It is also not unheard of for some not to last until the new season’s kick-off.
Only six of the 14 outfits in the 2018/19 competition declined to alter their foreign quartet at the midway point. Crisis clubs Al Nasr, Emirates Club, Fujairah and Dibba Al Fujairah churned through three quarters of their non-Emiratis when they desperately sought to alleviate the damage rendered by pre-season folly.
Remarkable prudence, however, has been exhibited by the nation’s most-decorated institution as they astutely plot a route back to glory after a wretched previous campaign.
Al Ain have concluded the majority of their recruitment before any of their direct rivals have stirred and in ample time for fresh parts to bed in. And, at a price in keeping with UAE football’s straitened reality.
Their example, if it gains requisite and predicted success in the months ahead, is one that should be heeded at a time when largesse from patrons are diminishing and organising body, the Pro League Committee, is preaching the merits of self sustainability.
A manic Thursday in the Garden City witnessed Al Ain announce deals for two of Africa’s fastest-emerging players. Diminutive Algerian winger Abderrahmane Meziane helped inspire USM Alger’s first Ligue Professionnelle 1 title in three seasons, while Togo forward Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba was the eight-goal leading marksman in the 2018/19 CAF Confederation Cup with Morocco’s RS Berkane.
Both were pursued by Egyptian titans Al Ahly, among other suitors from across the region. Both were convinced that their future aims were best served in Al Ain.
This is a fruitful market that has been curiously ignored by many AGL competitors. Only five deals were concluded with clubs from that continent, throughout the 2018/19 cycle.
This followed on from midweek moves for a pair of promising Emirati midfielders, Mohamed Jamal of Al Jazira and Ajman’s Mohammed Helal.
All generated excitement. Not one of them cost a fee.
This astute approach was also applied to landing a new coach.
Ex-Croatia midfielder Ivan Leko was named Belgium’s Professional Manager of the Year for 2017/18 after he led Club Brugge to that season’s title.
He bid farewell to Jan Breydel Stadium in May after his two-year contract expired and pitched up at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
Even when Al Ain spent cash, it went on a proven option. The €5.3 million paid to Al Wasl for Caio Canedo secured a Brazilian striker that has netted 68 times in 113 AGL run-outs.
This figure was largely covered by the money profited on Egypt midfielder Hussein El Shahat when he was sold to Ahly after a red-hot 2018 Club World Cup.
This pressing need for financial acumen has been painfully learned.
An enormous windfall was spurned last summer when golden boy Omar Abdulrahman was allowed to run down his contract and join Saudi Professional League giants Al Hilal. Brazilian attacker Caio is now set to join Benfica on a free transfer, denying club accounts of yet more precious cash.
Portuguese playmaker Ruben Ribeiro caused open revolt under Juan Carlos Garrido in the second half of 2018/19. Mali anchorman Tongo Doumbia is also unwanted and still, apparently, attached.
Sweden striker Marcus Berg’s travails – and subsequent departure – after a prolific 2017/18 mean a long-term successor to Asamoah Gyan is yet to be unearthed. The Ghana superstar departed for Shanghai SIPG in July 2015.
Al Ain, as defending champions, finished three places and 13 points behind shock winners Sharjah.
It’s not even July and, yet, such a disheartening outcome seems a world away after profligacy made way for acuity.
Al Ain’s extensive summer refit has continued apace with the captures of USM Alger’s Algerian winger Abderrahmane Meziane and promising Ajman midfielder Mohamed Helal.
Meziane, 25, comes to the Garden City on a four-year contract as a direct replacement for Benfica-bound Brazilian forward Caio. The uncapped wide man will be expected to add drive and flair to his employer’s front line after they finished a distant fourth in the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League.
An important seven strikes in 24 Ligue Professionnelle 1 run-outs from him helped L’USMA to last term’s title. He is joined at the Boss, on a five-year deal, by 23-year-old Helal, who went goalless in 18 top-flight appearances for the mid-table Orange Brigade.
Al Ain have already paid Al Wasl €5.3 million for their prolific Brazilian attacker Caio Canedo, 28, and swept up Al Jazira midfielder Mohamed Jamal, 25, on a free transfer. An announcement about the arrival of Togo and RS Berkane flyer Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba, 27, is reported to be imminent, with only versatile Japan defender Tsukasa Shiotani retained from last season’s four-player foreign quota.
Former Croatia midfielder Ivan Leko has been named as successor to Spanish coach Juan Carlos Garrido. The 41-year-old was selected as Belgium’s Professional Manager of the Year for 2017/18 after he led Club Brugge to glory in the Jupiler Pro League.