Long-term target Dan Petrescu has emerged as the early favourite to replace Ivan Jovanovic should Al Nasr decide to dismiss their floundering coach.
Preliminary talks are set to be intensified with the unemployed ex-Romania and Chelsea right-back after Al Ain inflicted a third-successive defeat in the Arabian Gulf League on Sunday.
This result continued an abominable start to 2016/17, which has seen them suffer six losses from 10 matches – with the forfeit following Wanderley’s passport scandal from the AFC Champions League quarter-final, first leg at Qatar’s El Jaish included – in all competitions.
Results have become so intolerable during Jovanovic’s fourth season at the helm that a change could even be made before Friday’s trip to fellow crisis side Al Wahda, who are also strongly considering ditching Mexican supremo Javier Aguirre.
Petrescu, 48, was close to accepting a switch to Al Maktoum Stadium in June 2013 before the current incumbent was hired, but a ¤12 million (Dh60m) release clause in his contract at Dynamo Moscow prevented it going through.
The well-travelled boss – who led Qatar’s Al Arabi from June-December 2014 – is available for work after a second spell at Russia’s Kuban Krasnodar ended by mutual consent after poor results on October 4.
For his part, Jovanovic remained upbeat after the tight 2-1 reversal to Al Ain saw his side sit ninth.
He said: “We’ve had bad results in the last games in the league, but I cannot lose my faith in my players – I believe in them always.
“Of course, with what happened in the Champions League, these two months something is there, but this is not an excuse. We’ve a good team and we need to show something better.”
If Jovanovic is to exit, he bids farewell to Nasr after a mixed stint. He ended a 25-year trophy drought with the 2014 GCC Club Cup during his debut campaign, adding the Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup-double a year later.
Yet his team has failed to excel in the top flight, last term’s fourth place their highest finish under him. The current campaign promised so much when Wanderley hit a double in August 24’s 3-0 triumph in Doha, but has gone into a tailspin since the Brazil-born striker’s Indonesian documentation was ruled “forged or falsified” a week later.
Jovanovic is considered a leading contender to replace UAE boss Mahdi Ali if a poor result in November 15’s World Cup 2018 qualifier against Iraq sees him sacked.