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.
Harold Goulon’s amazing stoppage time free kick goal from midfield capped a 3-1 victory for Pahang over visiting Perak in their opening leg Malaysian FA Cup semi-final in Kuantan on Saturday.
Goulon lofted a kick from just over the Pahang side of the midfield line and it made it into the back of the Perak net on the fly for one of the most bizarre goals of the year.
Pahang had taken a 2-0 lead on first half goals by Goulon and Mohamadou Sumareh in teh 11th and 40th minutes.
J Partiban claimed one back for Perak in the 54th before Goulon doubled on his midfield kick as Perak take a commanding 3-1 lead heading into the second leg in Perak next Saturday.
Watch the incredible strike above:
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.
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.