Al Jazira’s Mirko Vucinic aims to complete spell in UAE with Arabian Gulf League title

Mirko Vucinic says he aims to sign off his Al Jazira career next summer with an Arabian Gulf League winner’s medal.
Mirko Vucinic outlined his ambitions for the season at an Adidas event in Dubai. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Mirko Vucinic outlined his ambitions for the season at an Adidas event in Dubai. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Mirko Vucinic says he aims to sign off his Al Jazira career next summer with an Arabian Gulf League winner’s medal.

The Montenegro striker, 32, has only recently returned to full training after missing the majority of last season through injury. The league’s top scorer during the 2014/15 campaign — his first in the UAE — Vucinic ruptured his crucial ligament last November and spent the next eight months on the sidelines.

In that time, Jazira turned around an awful start to finish seventh in the league table, improving immediately with new manager Henk ten Cate in charge, while they concluded the season as President’s Cup winners after defeating Al Ain on penalties in the final.

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Vucinic has been training with the first-team since last month and, despite Ten Cate saying last week he is months away from competitive action, the former Roma and Juventus forward expects to be available for the Super Cup clash with Al Ahli in Cairo on September 13.

“My recovery has gone very good,” Vucinic said on Friday at an Adidas event in Dubai. “I’ll be ready in one or two weeks. I’ve waited a long time for this moment to come back, because I’ve been without football for too many months. I’ve had to be patient.

“It’s not easy because you stay with the team, you train with the team after the injury, and you watch games and want to help, but you can’t. You sit and just watch. In your heart you want to do something, but you can’t. It’s very difficult.”

Vucinic said he hopes he can return to the sort of form that carried him to 25 goals in 23 league matches following his arrival from Juventus in July 2014. It helped Jazira finish second in the table and meant he was crowned the division’s 2014/15 foreign player of the year.

Vucinic insists he is not looking beyond his current contract at Jazira, but said given it has entered its final year, he is even more determined to fire the capital club to glory this season.

“I hope to win the league, because when I came here I came to win something,” Vucinic said. “I couldn’t play in the President’s Cup because of my injury, which was difficult. Since this is my last year at Al Jazira, I hope to win something. We are targeting the league.”

Jazira’s form has improved significantly since Ten Cate was installed as manager in December. The Dutchman, who succeeded Brazilian Abel Braga, steered the club away from the relegation battle to mid-table and masterminded the dramatic President’s Cup victory against Al Ain — only the third time Jazira had lifted the trophy.

Vucinic says there is therefore plenty of reason to be optimistic heading into the new campaign.

“Last season, we started the league very badly, but when Henk came in he did a great job and we won the cup with him,” he said. “He works hard on the group, works in training to be a compact team on the pitch and to die on the pitch — it’s everybody as one.

“We are a young team with quality. Now a good coach has come in, a coach who gives a chance also to young players and this is important. Because if you’re young and you don’t play, it’s nothing. So we hope these young players improve and give us help next season to achieve our targets.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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Published: August 26, 2016 04:00 AM

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