Saudi Professional League heavyweights Al Hilal have secured PAOK miracle worker Razvan Lucescu as their next head coach.
Lucescu, 50, was unveiled by the top-flight runners-up in Paris on Sunday after a two-year deal worth $4 million per year was inked. A decision to activate the Romanian’s €2m release clause was made in the wake of a historic campaign from which his – now former – employers claimed their first Super League Greece title in 34 years, all without tasting defeat and with a record 80-point haul.
“First of all, I want to give thanks for your trust,” said Lucescu, whose arrival ends ambitious links to the likes of ex-Lyon supremo Bruno Genesio, France icon Laurent Blanc, Arsenal great Arsene Wenger and even Jose Mourinho. “I want to give thanks for the possibility, the opportunity, to pick me to be the coach of the most-famous team in Asia.
“I know there is a huge passion for this team. I know that there are huge expectations and I feel a huge responsibility.”
A tumultuous 2018/19 unravelled for the Crescent after January’s shock decision to dispense with the illustrious ex-Benfica tactician Jorge Jesus once he refused to commit past the summer. Zoran Mamic floundered soon after he was poached from Al Ain and caretaker Pericles Chamusca could not prevent Riyadh rivals Al Nassr usurping them at the top.
Lucescu – whose well-travelled father Mircea gained renown at the helm of Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk from 2004-16 – previously guided the now-defunct El Jaish in Qatar from 2012-14.
Other highlights include an unfulfilling stint at Romania from 2009-11, plus twice managing Brasov and Rapid Bucharest.
A first Greek Cup final appearance for minnows Skoda Xanthi was earned in 2014/15.
Lucescu will meet up with his new charges – a squad that includes the likes of ex-France centre forward Bafetimbi Gomis, UAE superstar Omar Abdulrahman and Italy creator Sebastian Giovinco – on camp in Linz, Austria on Tuesday.
A supercharged competitive opening comes in early August when Hilal battle bitter rivals Al Ahli Jeddah over two legs during the 2019 AFC Champions League’s round of 16.
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