Ambitious coach Marcel Keizer has marked his contract extension by sending out an ominous message that “maybe next year can be better” for reigning Arabian Gulf League champions Al Jazira.
Keizer, 52, was rewarded last week with fresh terms up to June 2023 after he led his youthful Pride of Abu Dhabi squad to a third top-flight title. Thoughts have already turned towards how a successful first defence in the club’s 47-year history can be engineered.
“We need some new players because if you keep it the same, maybe it’s not good enough,” he said to the media via video call from his native Netherlands. “It is also good to have some competition within our own team.
“Let’s see what we can do with the foreign players. We’ve still not decided, of course.
“But we are looking at the opportunities we have to make the team better.
“I think if we get some players in, it is good for the whole team. Because then everybody has a new challenge.
“Now, what we did was good. But maybe next year we can be better.”
He added: “We won the title, but in football every season is different. We first have to see what the team looks like when we start the league.
“Can we get more foreigners, or stay the same as last season? What about young players from the academy?
“We have to see, now. The opponents also, are very good clubs and teams.
“Are they going to buy different payers? We have to see.
“The only thing we can do is improve our game. Our game for a long time was very good last season.
“But there are still more improvements to make. This is the challenge for us next season.”
Jazira have already secured the futures of Serbia centre-back Milos Kosanovic and South Africa centre midfielder Thulani Serero. Uncertainty, however, surrounds the remainder of their four-player foreign quota.
Nigeria forward Imoh Ezekiel only inked a one-season deal in October 2020 and Curacao winger Brandley Kuwas only joined on a short-term loan from Al Nasr in January.
But all doubts about Keizer’s future were erased in recent days. The coveted ex-Sporting Lisbon and Ajax boss admitted he’d received overtures elsewhere with his stay, originally, set to end this summer.
“Yes, but it is not important now,” he replied when asked about other offers. “I am happy to stay and that is the most important now.”
The future, also, appears bright for Jazira. An average age of 26.8 years in 2020/21, according to Wyscout, evidenced a team yet to hit its prime, with four players – including hat-trick-hero Ali Mabkhout – starting the UAE’s 5-1 friendly thrashing of Jordan ahead of this week’s much-delayed resumption of World Cup 2022 qualifying
“Al Jazira is famous for our academy,” Keizer stated. “What you see now is that our team is a very good mix.
“We had two foreigners, then two more came in. Then, of course, Ali [Khaseif] and Ali [Mabkhout].
“Then the young players who are already becoming experienced, because they are 21 or 22.
“These guys did a great job last season. They get better every year.
“I expect them to be better next year, also. Then coming behind there is [Abdulla] Idrees at left-back, and some even younger players who can show themselves in training camp.
“This is very good for Al Jazira. Oumar Traore and [Mohammed] Rabii, also, there is a lot of potential at the club.”