A look to the past was deemed the only way to move forward. Seven-time UAE champions, one of the most decorated clubs in the country, Al Wasl had gone from standout to standstill.
Six seasons in the professional era had provided largely amateur results: sixth, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and 12th.
Last season was the nadir – one spot above the relegation zone.
So a side who used to peer down at their peers has been regularly gazing north. But then they glanced west, back to Brazil, back to the school of thought that brought their most recent successes: the league and President’s Cup double in 2006/07.
It began with the board. Installed in January, it is again chaired by Rashid Belhoul, who was at the helm when Wasl outlasted everyone to land the country’s two grandest titles.
Ze Mario, the experienced Brazilian, coached that side, and he now finds in his place a compatriot charged with returning the club to former glories.
In April, Wasl appointed Jorginho and the Zabeel Stadium has since boasted a distinctly Brazilian flavour.
The club's foreign contingent has been remodelled on the jogo bonito. Gone are the expatriates who concluded last season – Mariano Donda, Ricardo Oliveira, Emmanuel Culio and Edson Puch – to be replaced by a trio of Brazilians: Neto Berola, Fabio Virginio de Lima and Ederson.
A fourth foreigner, to complete the Arabian Gulf League quota, should be confirmed this weekend. His nationality is predictable.
The approach is questionable, but it can succeed, just as it did for Wasl seven years ago and then for Sharjah last term, when Brazilians spearheaded a stellar return to the top flight.
Wasl hope change will foster stability. For that, Jorginho requires support and time.
Twelve coaches have taken the reins at Wasl since those heady days in 2007 and the new man simply must not prove unlucky No 13.
Patience is required.
“We are putting a strategy in place where we need the new coach to be with us a long time,” said Majed Obaidallah, the team manager, at Jorginho’s introduction in May.
Ultimately, results will dictate just how long.
A teammate of Ronaldinho at Atletico Mineiro during their excellent 2013 – the club lifted the Campeonato Mineiro and the Copa Libertadores – Berola, pictured, will be expected to improve Wasl’s potency. Diminutive and determined, the striker also possesses a quick change of pace. Against him is the fact that he has never been prolific and is playing outside Brazil for the first time.
Fabio Virginio de Lima
Something of a surprise acquisition. The little Brazilian most recently represented Atletico Goianiense, a second-division Brazil side, and was recommended by Jorginho. Formerly of Vasco da Gama, Lima is a pacey playmaker who possesses the ability to score and to assist. At age 21, he will be hungry to make an impact. A lack of fitness had initially worried Wasl.
The lively forward excelled in 2013, bagging 21 goals for Atletico Paranaense to finish as the top scorer in the Brazilian Serie A – a tally that reportedly alerted several prominent European clubs to his talent. However, Ederson’s final campaign was nowhere near as prolific – four goals in 20 matches – so Wasl will hope he can rediscover his mojo in Dubai.
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