Diego Maradona says he is interested in signing Emirati players for Dynamo Brest, his new club in Belarus.
The Argentine World Cup winner, 57, was last week appointed chairman of the Belarusian side on a three-year deal and was formally introduced in his latest role on Tuesday night at Emirates Palace hotel.
Maradona joins Brest following almost one year at Fujairah, the UAE second-tier club. A former Al Wasl manager too, he left Fujairah on April 27 following his team's failure to gain automatic promotion to the Arabian Gulf League, initially claiming the decision was mutually made.
At Brest, Maradona joins a club currently eighth in the Belarusian Premier League after seven matches of their season. Last week, they defeated domestic champions BATE Borisov 3-2 in the Belarus Cup final to reach the second qualifying round of the 2018/19 Europa League.
Maradona will begin his new position in earnest immediately after a stint on Venezuelan television as a pundit for next month’s Fifa World Cup. He said, though, that he will begin now to assess the Brest squad, and that he would consider the UAE market for recruitments.
“First of all, we need to see what I’m lacking in the team,” Maradona said. “Once I will see the players on the pitch, from there I will take my conclusions and in which positions I will need a player.
“Emirati, Italian, Spanish - I have a lot of love for the players that I have coached, so don’t be surprised if tomorrow we’ll have three Emirati players in my team. Because all the work my boys at Fujairah have done they conquered my heart and this is a lot.
“When we went to Holland [for pre-season training last summer] we were a random group, like a high school group, but when we came back to Fujairah we came with an idea of how we wanted to play football. That’s why I’m not afraid of the challenge and of this challenge. Definitely I will take Emirati players.”
More on Maradona:
Fujairah timeline: From shock unveiling to departure by 'mutual agreement'
Dr Taj Eddin Seif, chairman of Belarusian Business Council in the UAE and Dynamo Brest co-owner, said: “We are honoured and delighted to officially announce Diego Maradona as chairman. With Diego at the helm, we don’t have any semblance of doubt in taking the club to a new level both in the domestic and international arena, and fulfil our ambitions.”
A resident of Dubai since 2011, Maradona shares a special affinity with the Emirates. He managed Wasl for 14 months from May 2011, before he was dismissed midway through his two-year contract, while he later served as an ambassador for Dubai Sports Council.
On Tuesday, Maradona thanked the UAE’s ruling family for their continued support and the impact they have made in promoting sport in the country.
“I would also like the opportunity to give my heart to all the Emiratis for all the love and the respect that they gave me,” Maradona said. “I live a beautiful life in the UAE and leaving for Belarus doesn’t mean I’m going for ever from Dubai. Dubai is an important place for myself because I consider myself an Emirati citizen.
"I’m leaving for an assignment and I’ll be back in Dubai because I love this place so much. It’s a place I plan to live in after I retire. I want to thank many people in this country who have had a significant influence on my sporting life.”
Leaving Fujairah amid much uncertainty, Maradona paid tribute to his former players, but stopped short when it came to thanking the club.
The Argentine's departure was confirmed on social media by Fujairah hours after last month's 1-1 draw with Khorfakkan in the final match of the 2017/18 First Division season. Fujairah later claimed Maradona had agreed to return as manager, but then demanded four times his original salary.
"I want to congratulate my boys at Fujairah and not anyone else,” said Maradona, who commuted daily from Dubai to the east-coast emirate. “Maybe also the president of the club, who has been very good to me.
“I have encountered many good memories. We fought hard and they wanted to be in the Arabian Gulf League. I travelled 150km to go from my home to Fujairah and back again to go home every day and the boys of Fujairah are in my heart always.
“I was kicked from Al Wasl because of a tweet. And from Fujairah the same thing happened - because of a tweet they sent me home. But I still believe in people. I believe in these people and I cannot wait.
“I’m passionate to start working with my players, for the academy and for the people of Belarus. And not forgetting of course that in the UAE I lived amazing years and I am very thankful for everything.”