Leonardo Jardim sets out ambitious plans for Shabab Al Ahli after being appointed manager

Portuguese coach wants the Dubai club to compete for titles domestically and on the continent

Leonardo Jardim led Al Hilal to the Asian Champions League title last year and into the Club World Cup semi-finals. AFP
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New Shabab Al Ahli manager Leonardo Jardim says he is determined to build a team that can compete both domestically and for the Asian Champions League.

The Portuguese coach, 47, was introduced to the media late on Wednesday at the Dubai club’s Rashid Stadium having last month signed a contract for the 2022/23 season. He replaces Emirati Mahdi Ali in the dugout.

Jardim, who previously managed Monaco with distinction, arrives at Shabab Al Ahli after his most recent spell in management with Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, where he guided the Riyadh club to last year’s Asian Champions League crown.

However, Jardim left Hilal by mutual consent in February following the team's semi-final exit to Chelsea at the Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi. His tenure had lasted eight months.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Jardim said: "I am very happy and proud to sign with Shabab Al Ahli. It is a great team in the Emirates and the Gulf, since it competes always for championships.

"The team has a great project that gives me incentive to work with it, while at the same time one of the positive things is the club have won the Under-21 league title in the last two seasons.

“I came twice to Dubai to talk with the club’s management, and we discussed many matters, including winning titles. In any team I coach I always give everything I have, and there is no doubt that the club's project is in line with what I seek to achieve.

“There must be a balance in all positions, and we seek to form a strong team that competes for all the championships in the coming years. I will work with the management and the technical staff so that the team appears in the image we wish.”

Seven-time UAE champions, Shabab Al Ahli finished fifth in last season’s Adnoc Pro League, while their defence of the President’s Cup concluded at the quarter-final stage.

The team began training with Jardim on Wednesday night, and will travel to Serbia later this month to continue preparations for the next season, which begins on September 2.

Asked about Shabab Al Ahli’s chances of competing for the Champions League next year – they meet champions Hilal in the last 16 next February – Jardim said: “I have a love for football wherever I have worked in France, Portugal, Greece or Saudi, and it is the beauty of football to play to win. But my thinking at the moment is on building a team to compete strongly for championships.

“It is too early to talk about the Asian Champions League and facing Al Hilal. We will work upward and focus on preparing the team for the start of the season in September.”

Jardim, who in 2017 led Monaco to a first Ligue 1 title in 17 years and also to the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League, said he will continue discussions with the club’s management regarding player contracts and potential signings.

Updated: July 07, 2022, 8:10 AM
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