Al Ain introduce new technical director Dalic, insist no impact on Sanchez Flores

UAE champions introduce new technical director, but stop short at putting faith behind current coach Quique Sanchez Flores.

Since Quique Sanchez Flores took over at Al Ain in September, the club have slumped to eighth in the Arabian Gulf League table. Satish Kumar / The National
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AL AIN // The appointment of Zlatko Dalic as their technical supervisor will have no immediate bearing on coach Quique Sanchez Flores, Al Ain club officials said Wednesday, although uncertainty still surrounds the Spaniard's future.

The UAE champions introduced the Croatian at their Khalifa International Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, and have charged him with developing the club’s academy sides.

However, while Al Ain said Dalic would concentrate solely on improving the “elite teams” under the first-team squad and reserves, they did not rule out the possibility of him eventually replacing Sanchez Flores as first-team coach.

Sanchez Flores’s position has been the subject of much conjecture these past few weeks, especially as he has failed to turn around Al Ain’s fortunes since he was installed in late September.

Since then, the club have registered six victories in 16 Arabian Gulf League matches; a sequence that has seen them slump to eighth in the table. It was believed last week's opening Asian Champions League win against Lekhwiya, the Qatari side, had saved Sanchez Flores's job, but that now seems merely a postponement of the inevitable.

“Mr Zlatko will be the supervisor of the elite teams in the club’s academy, but all possibilities are open,” said Khalifa Suleiman, manager of Al Ain’s sports sector. “For now, tentatively, he is responsible with supervising the elite teams. Nothing can be said about the first team as of now.

“He is happy to join Al Ain club and prefers them to other many offers he had. So we’re not thinking about sacking the coach, although we are not satisfied with the team. As we said, everything is possible.”

Suleiman would not reveal the details of the contract, but revealed that negotiations to finalise the agreement are still ongoing. He denied Dalic’s recruitment casts a shadow on Sanchez Flores, and said that, given their different responsibilities, the two men would not be required to work together.

“This step has nothing to do with weakening the head coach’s position or putting any pressure on him,” Suleiman said. “Because his task is the first team and the reserves. Mr Zlatko’s is the academy.

“We have two separate managements under the club’s umbrella. This has nothing to do with [Sanchez Flores’s] work, but if he thinks it’s putting pressure on his work then it’s his thoughts, not ours.”

Dalic, 47, knows well the region, having last year briefly managed Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia. He had been promoted to coach after six months in charge of the Riyadh side’s B team, and led the club to the 2013 Crown Prince Cup. He began his new role with Al Ain on Wednesday.

“Al Ain is big challenge for me,” Dalic said. “I must know everything; get to know all the situations specific to Al Ain. Football is my life. I am happy since I started in it. Inshallah, I will stay here a long time.

“I had six or seven offers in Saudi, but I have big ambition and I wanted a big club. It’s a big chance. I believe in my job, in my work, and that I will do a good job as supervisor, and coach. If I didn’t believe in myself I would stay in my home, but I believe I can make a big job at a big club.”

On Sanchez Flores, Dalic added: “I can’t speak now of what happens in the future. I didn’t come here to put pressure on anybody. I came here to do my job and help Al Ain club. Now, this is my job. It’s my future here, but what will be I don’t know.”

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