ABU DHABI // After a season that promised so much ut ended empty-handed Al Jazira will be anticipating a return to the good times after the worst kept secret in the Arabian Gulf League was confirmed on Tuesday that former coach Abel Braga had agreed to return to the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
Officials at the club refused to comment on Braga’s impending arrival, merely saying that “all details will be announced when the coach is unveiled to the media shortly”. Tellingly though, Ahmed Saeed A Marzouqi, who was the team manager during Braga’s three-year spell at Jazira, has been reinstated to his former post, replacing Mohammed Salem Al Enazi.
The 62-year-old Brazilian is revered after leading Jazira to both the Arabian Gulf League and the President’s Cup titles in 2011 for the first time in the club’s history. But that league-and-cup double was a reward for three years of challenging in a league not renown for giving its coaches time to succeed.
[ – Al Jazira confirm return of Abel Braga on two-year deal as replacement for Eric Gerets ]
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After clinching those coveted titles, Braga moved to his homeland to take charge again of Fluminense, despite Jazira willing to tie the South American to an extended contract.
Alejandro Sabella succeeded Braga but the Argentine backed out of the agreement at the 11th hour to take charge of Argentina, leading Lionel Messi and company to the World Cup final in Brazil last year.
In August 2011, Franky Vercauteren was installed as coach, but the Belgian was fired mid-way through the season after a run of disappointing results. He was replaced by the Brazilian Caio Junior on a caretaker basis and despite retaining the President’s Cup the club opted part ways after Jazira were eliminated from the Asian Champions League at the last-16 stage.
Since then, under four different coaches – Paulo Bonamigo, Luis Milla, Walter Zenga, and Eric Gerets, the Belgium coach whom Braga will replace – the Abu Dhabi club have endured a barren spell that has yielded no trophies in the past three seasons.
Jazira finished a distant second in the Arabian Gulf League this season to Al Ain having led the table at the mid-season break. Failure to negotiate the Asian Champions League qualifiers and a limp exit to Ajman in the last 16 of the President’s Cup sealed Gerets’s fate.
Management at Jazira are positive that Braga is the man to lead the team’s title challenge next season, especially with the quality of the squad they have assembled.
Jazira wasted little time in completing two new foreign signings in Thiago Neves, the attacking Brazilian midfielder from Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal, and Gervinho, the pacey forward from Roma, who is set to arrive after international duty with Ivory Coast.
The foreign quartet for the 2015/16 campaign then comprises Neves, Gervinho, and the retained Mirko Vucinic, the Montenegro striker who topped the AGL scoring chart with 25 goals in 2014/15, and Jucilei de Silva, the Brazilian who plays under a Palestine passport.
It is believed Braga, who won one Brazil cap as a centre-back in 1978, has agreed a two-year contract to replace Gerets, who was dismissed with one year still to run on his deal.
After leaving Jazira, Braga returned home to take charge of Fluminense and led them to third in the Brazil’s Serie A and qualification to the Copa Libertadores.
The following season he led the club to the Serie A title and was named the league’s best coach. However, his time there ended on a sour note when he was sacked in July 2013 after five consecutive defeats left the club in the relegation zone.
In his last coaching role he took up the reigns at Brazil’s Internacional, a club he had guided to the Copa Libertaores and the 2006 Fifa Club World Cup, in January 2014 but left 11 months later.
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