What next for victorious manager Hernan Crespo - Chelsea, Italy, or continue at Al Ain?

The Argentine coach has not stayed at a club for a long time and could be enticed elsewhere

Powered by automated translation

In his relatively brief coaching career so far, Hernan Crespo has been at clubs for a good time not a long time. He has been in management for around a decade now, and Al Ain is the seventh club he has coached already.

It stands to reason his stay in the Garden City could be brief, too, notwithstanding the historic success of Saturday night, when his side became champions of Asia for the second time. The shelf life of the majority of managers in UAE football is generally not much longer than that of fresh fruit.

In the aftermath of the thrilling win over Yokohama F Marinos, the Argentine was not overly keen to think about the future. And fair enough, too. His side had just achieved something for the ages. They had earned their right to celebrate it.

The future can wait. But where, for Crespo, might that be? Does he try to build a dynasty at Al Ain? Or look to keep rolling on elsewhere? When does he take his shot at one of Europe’s big leagues?

Even if their stay has been short, Al Ain has often proved to be a good entry for a manager to have on their CV. The club have had some very good ones in the past couple of decades.

Tite had a brief spell there, before going on to have a long stint in charge of his native Brazil, up until the Qatar World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic was a darling of the Ainawi for the best part of three years, in which time he delivered four trophies. He went straight to managing Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final, then the semis four years later.

And Serhiy Rebrov delivered Al Ain’s most recent league title, during a two-year stint up until May 2023. He is now coach of the Ukraine team who are heading to Euro 2024.

Crespo has had a good look round in his coaching career so far. Those seven clubs he has overseen include postings in Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Qatar and the UAE.

His achievements are stacking up, too. He has won continental titles in South America (the Copa Sudamericana with Defensa y Justicia) and now Asia. He won the league with Sao Paulo in Brazil, and the treble with Al Duhail in Qatar.

A diversity of experience plus a wealth of trophies like that should serve a manager well. But more often than not when it comes to the leading European clubs, out of sight is out of mind.

There is a vacancy at Chelsea. There may be a disconnect between that club’s supporters and the current ownership, but Todd Boehly and Co have already shown they do not mind going back in time and picking up a fans’ favourite to helm their project.

Crespo does not exactly have legend status at Stamford Bridge. Certainly not in the manner of Frank Lampard, who was brought back to the club after the removal of Graham Potter and before the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino.

His time at Chelsea as a player was moderate. He was initially unfancied by Jose Mourinho after Didier Drogba’s arrival, and was loaned out to AC Milan. Then, when he was brought back, he won the first league winner’s medal of his playing career in Europe.

Chelsea fans are unlikely to be anti-Crespo. But he might need a greater body of work, especially in European leagues, if it is to become a realistic destination for him in the future.

Parachuting into West London direct from the east of the UAE, for example, is unheard of. Quique Sanchez Flores sandwiched a storied stint in the Emirates between roles in La Liga and the Premier League, but that is the closest anyone has come to it.

So where is his likely next step if Crespo and Al Ain do eventually part ways? Whether that will be the short trip west to Saudi Arabia, or a longer one to Europe, remains to be seen. Perhaps his greatest currency will be in Italy, where he spent the majority of his playing career.

Maybe when will it happen is the more pertinent question. If he was being judged solely on league form – he has won eight of 15 top-flight matches, with Al Ain set to finish third – the Ainawi would drive Crespo straight to the airport themselves. Even after the triumph of Saturday night, some remain of the same mind. A lucky coach rather than a good one, say the doubters.

Even if that is the case, many a manager will acknowledge that is a good thing to be. And Crespo has the medals to argue he may be a little bit of both.

Updated: May 28, 2024, 2:44 AM