Diego Maradona’s representatives say the Argentine left Fujairah on Friday by mutual consent following the club’s failure to gain automatic promotion to the Arabian Gulf League.
Fujairah had been held to a 1-1 draw at home by Khorfakkan in their final First Division fixture of the season, ensuring they finished third in the table and therefore missed out on direct entry into the UAE top flight.
Fujairah do retain the opportunity to secure promotion via a play-off next month against Hatta, the Arabian Gulf League's bottom club, with Maradona initially expected to lead his side in the two-legged tie.
However, Fujairah announced the manager's departure, alongside his technical staff, on social media hours after the Khorfakkan match, much to everyone's surprise. Maradona's lawyer Matias Morla later confirmed the news, tweeting that the two parties had decided together for a parting of the ways.
“After today’s draw and having not achieved the goal of promotion, Diego Maradona will no longer be the Fujairah coach,” Morla said. “The decision was made in mutual agreement and Diego leaves the team in a play-off situation. He wishes the best to the club that opened its doors.”
A source close to Maradona, 57, echoed those sentiments on Saturday, adding that the 1986 World Cup winner needed time to digest what had transpired on Friday night. Still, the decision did come as a shock.
Although Fujairah did not seal a top-two spot in the First Division – Baniyas and Kalba finished first and second, respectively – Fujairah concluded their league campaign unbeaten, winning 11 of their 22 matches. They eventually finished on 44 points, two off Kalba. Meanwhile, they progressed to the President's Cup quarter-finals earlier this month, where they lost 4-2 to UAE champions Al Ain.
“Maradona’s numbers at Fujairah speak of a clear historical campaign for the club,” Morla said. “For the first time they finished the season unbeaten in the 22 games he took charge of, winning 11 and drawing 11. They are the only team in the championship who didn’t lose this season and he leaves the team in with a chance in the play-off.”
Appointed amid much fanfare last May, Maradona was tasked with leading Fujairah back into the Arabian Gulf League following the club's two-season absence. The Argentine World Cup winner, considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, was given a one year-contract, although there was an option to extend should Fujairah be promoted. Speaking recently, Maradona acknowledged his fate was largely dependent on taking the team back into the top division.
Before Fujairah, he had last managed Al Wasl, spending 14 months at the Dubai club between May 2011 and July 2012. Prior to that, Maradona had unsuccessful spells at Argentina’s Mandiyu de Corrientes and Racing Club in the mid-1990s, while he steered his national team to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup.