Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic is confident the club’s new signings will make them a dynamic attacking force next term – even without departed top-scorer Asamoah Gyan.
The Croatian boss was named the Arabian Gulf League’s Coach of the Year on Sunday night in recognition of guiding his side to the title in emphatic fashion last season.
However, he has since seen on-loan winger Miroslav Stoch return to Fenerbahce and club legend Gyan sold for big money to Chinese outfit Shanghai SIPG.
In their places have arrived former Liverpool wideman Ryan Babel and Nigerian centre forward Emmanuel Emenike. And Dalic believes the pair will “refresh the team” as the Boss seek a fourth AGL crown in five seasons.
“Gyan is a fantastic player who gave everything for Al Ain and Al Ain gave him so much as well,” said Dalic.
“After four years it is normal for him to leave, it is football. If somebody gives the club double the money, why not go?
“But Al Ain need a change too, we need to refresh the team so I agree that Gyan should go and he deserves to go and take a new chance in his career. He didn’t have anything left to prove.
“It will be ok because they [Gyan and Emenike] are similar players. It is a new challenge for Emmanuel. He’s hungry and I hope he will help me and help my team and be part of our success next season.
“You know that Gyan did not play too much last season for my team. We had to deal without him but I appreciate him and I am sorry that he has gone, but that is football and life.
“We have also bought Babel and he will change games. He is the same style of player as Miro (Stoch) and it is a new challenge.
"It is a new player and a fresh player and I think it will be better than last season, I expect to be better than last season.”
Having guided the Boss to the league title with a cushion of a whopping nine points over runners-up Al Jazira, Dalic was an obv-ious choice for Coach of the Year at the AGL’s annual awards ceremony.
The popular 48-year-old was quick to shift the plaudits elsewhere, however, and admitted their Asian Champions League quarter-final exit to domestic rivals Al Ahli was a lingering disappointment.
“I am happy for this award and to be nominated as one of the three best coaches in the league,” Dalic added.
“Last season my team did a fantastic job and I’m very happy and proud.
“It’s not only my win, it is for my team, my players, my staff, everybody in my club is part of this award.
“We played well, we played fantastic football in the last 15 months but then in the last five days we lost two games and it was disappointing for Al Ain because we expect big results and lots of trophies.
“But we did a fantastic job and we’re looking like a team. I am satisfied with the season although I am disappointed with the Champions League.”