Calderon tops Al Jazira's wish list
ABU DHABI // Gabriel Calderon, the Argentine who led Saudi Arabia to the World Cup in 2006, has emerged as a front-runner to become the new coach at Al Jazira.
Calderon, 51, is on the club's shortlist to replace countryman Alejandro Sabella, who reneged on his deal with the league champions last week to become the coach of the Argentina national team.
Calderon, who played for his country in the 1982 and 1990 World Cups, has enjoyed notable success in the Middle East.
He guided Saudi Arabia to the World Cup in Germany five years ago and later won the Saudi Premier League with Al Ittihad in 2008, and again last season at Al Hilal.
Raymond Domenech, the controversial former France manager, has also expressed an interest in the Jazira job, although that is believed, at the moment, to be unlikely.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Al Jazira chairman, has been working to make an appointment as soon as possible, following Sabella's decision to walk out on his contract.
Calderon, a former midfielder, was one of the original candidates when Sabella was named as Abel Braga's replacement in June, and last week Jazira hinted that they would return to that list to appoint their new coach. He played for Racing Club and Atletico Independiente in Argentina, and then moved to Europe where he starred for Real Betis of Spain and the French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
He was a teammate of the new Al Wasl coach Diego Maradona when their team won the 1979 Fifa World Youth Championship, but was not part of the World Cup winning squad of 1986.
Calderon was dismissed by the Saudi Arabian Football Association in December 2005, seven months before the World Cup, because they were unhappy with the team's performances in the West Asian Games. He became coach of the Oman national team in April 2007, before moving to Ittihad with whom he won a championship in his first year in charge.
Calderon, then with Hilal, won last season's title and the Crown Prince Cup, but lost his job just three weeks ago following defeat to his former club Ittihad in the King Cup of Champions.
Domenech was the France manager between 2004 and 2010, a spell that ended after a disastrous World Cup in South Africa when the players went on strike, in part because their relationship with the 59 year old was soured.
However, he did take an ageing France side to the 2006 World Cup final, where they lost to Italy in a penalty shoot-out.
Domenech contacted The National about the position at Jazira.
"The Middle East is the best place to work in football right now," he said. "There are young, motivated players who are willing to work hard and learn.
"I love football and would try to bring my success of the 2006 World Cup to Al Jazira. I would try to improve every aspect of the players, as well as bring my knowledge of tactics, mental strength, nutrition and the technical side of the game.
"I also learned a lot from the 2010 World Cup through the older players believing they were stars and not being interested in team work, rather they talked to the media instead of training.
"I know that the club has made a big effort to grow. It has enjoyed success and I know they have a very professional team. I would give 100 per cent of my concentration to Al Jazira."
Published: August 2, 2011 04:00 AM