The Arabian Gulf League 2016/17 season kicks off on Friday night with three matches across the Emirates. Ahead of the new UAE domestic season, John McAuley takes a look at the league’s new managers and their tasks ahead.
Rodolfo Arruabarrena (Al Wasl)
The Argentine, 41, replaces Gabriel Calderon following an initially successful two-year spell with South American giants Boca Juniors. He led the club to the 2015 Argentine Primera Division title and the Copa Argentina crown. However, Arruabarrena was dismissed in February after a poor start to the new campaign. Needs to better Wasl’s sixth-place finish last season.
Fred Rutten (Al Shabab)
Seeking a shift from Brazilians, Shabab swapped Caio Junior for Rutten, the Dutch manager with a wealth of experience. Previously employed by, among others, PSV Eindhoven, Schalke and Feyenoord, the 53-year-old left the latter last year having secured a fourth-placed finish in the Eredivisie. Was installed at Shabab in May so has had significant time with new side.
Pablo Repetto (Baniyas)
The Uruguayan, 42, arrives in Abu Dhabi on the back of almost taking Ecuadorian minnows Independiente del Valle to Copa Libertadores glory. Although his side were defeated in the final, Repetto had already agreed to replace Abdullah Misfir at Baniyas. Has managed a number of clubs in his homeland, while also enjoying a brief spell in Bolivia.
Giorgos Donis (Sharjah)
After initially rejecting Sharjah’s offer, the no-nonsense Greek, 46, decided to accept, succeeding Abdulaziz Al Anbari at the ambitious UAE club. Has experience of Gulf football having spent 15 months at Saudi Arabia heavyweights Al Hilal. Won the King’s Cup and Crown Prince Cup there, and took club to 2015 Asian Champions League semi-final. Was dismissed in May.
Paulo Sergio (Dibba)
With Theo Bucker first staying put but eventually leaving for Emirates club, Dibba moved for the much-travelled Sergio. The 48-year-old has managed various clubs in his native Portugal, most notably a disappointing nine-month spell at Sporting Lisbon from 2010. Led Hearts to 2012 Scottish Cup success. Last managed Academia in his homeland.
Fabio Viviani (Kalba)
A curious choice by the newly promoted side, who last month dismissed Division One-winning manager Mourad Okbi. Instead, Kalba recruited Viviani, 49, who recently spent two years on the backroom staff of Italy’s Palermo – a role that included a one-match stint as caretaker manager. Previously assistant manager at Udinese in Serie A, he also managed lower-division Italian clubs.