Saudi Professional League: Al Ahli Jeddah seal swoop for Persepolis boss Branko Ivankovic

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Al Ahli Jeddah have announced a two-year deal for inspirational Persepolis coach Branko Ivankovic as they look to rebound from their dismal 2018/19 Saudi Professional League campaign.

Ivankovic, 65, had been locked in negotiations for several weeks with the King Abdullah Sports City-outfit. These talks proved tense as Egyptian heavyweights Al Ahly mounted their own charm offensive for the well-travelled tactician and his – now former – employers railed against reports about an exit.

The Croatian’s departure from Iran has ended a trophy laden four-year stint. This period included the last three Persian Gulf Pro League titles, the 2018/19 Hazfi Cup, a trio of Iranian Super Cups and narrow defeat in the 2018 AFC Champions League final to Japan’s Kashima Antlers.

Ahli crept into a distant fourth place under caretaker Yousef Anbar after a disruptive season that contained the firings of South American duo Pablo Guede and Jorge Fossati. Their next competitive fixtures come in August in the 2019 ACL’s round of 16 versus great rivals Al Hilal.

“Branko Ivankovic is the new manager of the first football team after signing a two-year contract,” they tweeted in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Al Bilad newspaper has also linked them with an ambitious move for DC United’s Luciano Acosta.

The diminutive Argentine playmaker has been previously linked to both Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.

Refreshing Ahli’s seven-player foreign quota will be a pressing task for Ivankovic.

He does, however, boast extensive managerial experience to aid him in this task.

A 28-year career in the dugout is highlighted by leading Iran at World Cup 2006 and winning the 2010 Chinese Super League with Shandong Luneng.

Familiarity with the SPL is provided by 2011/12’s guiding of Ettifaq to an impressive fourth place.

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