Andres Iniesta’s future unclear but Benito Carbone wants to stay after Emirates relegation

Spain great missed final game of club's UAE Pro League season but former Premier League star Carbone looks forward as manager

Benito Carbone hopes to be kept on as Emirates coach and help guide them back to the top division of UAE football. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Benito Carbone, the former English Premier League attacker, wants to stay on at Emirates and help guide them back to the top-flight of UAE football.

Despite having plenty of stardust scattered around the Ras Al Khaimah club this season, they were relegated from the UAE Pro League with a game to spare.

They were deprived a consolation win in their final game on Wednesday evening when an Al Ain side depleted by international call ups came from 2-0 down to beat them 3-2.

Andres Iniesta was conspicuous by his absence. The Spain great was not part of the match day squad for Emirates.

The former Barcelona midfielder turned 40 last month. He signed a one-year deal to play in RAK at the start of this season, with an option to extend for another year.

He has yet to publicly state whether he will play on or not, but did suggest earlier in the campaign he was not enjoying his experience given the team’s struggles.

It seems likely the last appearance of his glittering career might have been as a substitute in the game against Al Bataeh on Saturday which condemned them to the drop.

Iniesta was present for the final match, wearing Chicago Bulls shorts and a white T-shirt while watching from the stands with his son.

After the game he sought out Hernan Crespo, the Argentine coach of Al Ain, for a photograph and then went into the dressing room to speak to the players of the Asian Champions League winning side.

At the same time, Carbone was fielding questions about his own future. The former Inter Milan, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa player arrived in January as an assistant to new Emirates manager Walter Zenga.

When the club parted ways with Zenga at the end of April, Carbone took over as head coach. Despite the team’s demotion, he says he wants to stay on and be part of the solution.

“My priority is to stay at this club,” Carbone, 52, said.

“We will see in the next few weeks what happens. We will sit with the [club administration] and look at the project for next season because we want to get this club back as soon as we can into [the Pro League].”

Carbone acknowledged he had little knowledge about UAE football before he got the call from Zenga, his Italian compatriot, to join his staff.

He said he was grateful to be offered the chance to step up after Zenga went, and wants to continue working with the club.

“It was a big surprise for me to get the chance to join this club and these players,” Carbone said.

“I hope we can stay more time together. I didn’t know much [about UAE football] but when Walter called me to be his assistant manager, I watched a lot of play by the team.

“I wanted to learn as much as I could, but it is not the same as when you come here and live the situation. Now I think there is a good chance for me to try to give to them more ideas, more quality and more motivation to improve.”

In Carbone’s eight games in charge, Emirates won twice, drew once, and lost five.

“It was my honour and privilege to work with these players,” he said.

“We tried our best and tried to fight every single game to save our season, but the result was hard. I am really proud of everyone. We need to accept the final result and to look forward and plan for next season.

“In the last seven or eight games we deserved better results. Against Al Jazira [when they lost 2-0] and Wahda [in a 0-0 draw], we deserved better results for sure because we played fantastic football and created a lot of chances.

“We were unlucky. We made individual mistakes and that makes a lot of difference in football today. For what they have shown on the pitch in the last seven games, I thought we had a really good chance to save ourselves. Now we need to look forward.”

Updated: June 06, 2024, 1:22 PM