Al Ain and Ivan Leko part by 'mutual consent' after poor Arabian Gulf League run

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Ivan Leko (Al Ain).

Ex-Croatia midfielder Ivan Leko’s pained five-month stint at Al Ain has been brought to an end by “mutual consent” in the wake of Thursday’s shock home defeat to unfancied Al Dhafra.

Leko, 41, came to the Garden City on a two-year deal with a sizeable reputation after he won the 2017/18 Jupiler Pro League crown and was named Manager of the Year at Club Brugge. A three-match winless run throughout the winter, however, ramped up pressure in the Garden City that reached critical mass with the Western Knights’ 2-1 triumph – their first-ever away win in the fixture.

“The Al Ain Board of Directors announced this evening [Saturday] that they had exempted the Croatian coach, Ivan Leko, the coach of the team, and his technical staff, from their mission,” a statement read.

“The Iraqi Ghazi Fahad, the coach of the Under-21 team, will take over training the first team temporarily until the new coach is named… We decided to take the decision to terminate the relationship with the coach by mutual consent. “

Leko has departed Hazza bin Zayed Stadium with a record of nine wins, five draws and three defeats in all competitions. The Boss currently sit fourth – seven points behind leaders Sharjah – in the Arabian Gulf League, while they meet Al Nasr in January 9’s Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finals.

Al Ain’s last three long-term managers have all been Croats. Current national team boss Zlatko Dalic led them to defeat in the 2016 AFC Champions League final, while Zoran Mamic made history with 2018’s astonishing run to the Club World Cup showpiece against Real Madrid.

Former Al Taawoun manager Pedro Emanuel was heavily linked with the post last summer before Leko’s confirmation.

Monday’s President’s Cup opener versus First Division League pacesetters Dibba Al Hisn is next up for the Boss – and their new caretaker.

“Change happens in life and although my mission is temporary, my confidence is great,” said Fahad.

Brazilian attackers Rafael Grampola and Rodrigo Souza will carry the greatest threat to the seven-time champions.

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