Former Shabab Al Ahli Dubai manager Rodolfo Arruabarrena being considered for UAE top job

Arruabarrena emerges as a possible replacement for Ivan Jovanovic

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, Jan 16 – 2020 :- Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Head Coach of Shabab Al Ahli club during the pre-match press conference of Arabian Gulf Cup final held at Al Wasl Club’s Zabeel stadium in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National) For Sports. Story by Amith
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Rodolfo Arruabarrena has emerged as a candidate for the UAE national team job, as the Football Association seek to narrow its search during the coming weeks.

The former Shabab Al Ahli Dubai manager, 44, is one of a number of names being considered as a replacement for Ivan Jovanovic, who was dismissed last month following less than six months in charge.

Zlatko Dalic, the current Croatia manager and previously of Al Ain, Cosmin Olaroiu, the former Al Ain and Ahli manager, and Juan Antonio Pizzi, who managed Saudi Arabia at the last World Cup, are also viewed as potential candidates. Dalic, though, is expected to remain with Croatia until after next summer’s delayed European Championship.

The National understands Arruabarrena is indeed interested in the national team role, although the former Boca Juniors and Villarreal full-back has been sounded out by clubs in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL).

While the FA assesses a range of options, it has yet to officially make contact with any prospective managers. The governing body’s national-team committee will first look to whittle down what at present is a substantial list of names before eventually deciding on a three-man shortlist.

As previously reported, the FA has placed emphasis on managers with experience within either UAE football or football in the region, while there is a preference for those who have taken charge of teams at international level – although it is not viewed as a necessity.

There is also the desire to select a coach who can both guide the UAE through qualification for the next World Cup and work towards the 2026 tournament.

Arruabarrena appeals given his past accomplishments in the AGL. The Argentine joined Al Wasl in 2016 and went on to lead the Dubai club to second- and third-place finishes in the league – the seven-time UAE champions’ best performances in a decade. Wasl also reached the finals of the President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup in the 2017/18 season, only to lose both.

A brief spell at Qatar’s Al Rayyan followed before Arruabarrena took the reins at Shabab Al Ahli in October 2018. He went on to enjoy considerable success with the club, capturing the league cup and President’s Cup in his first season, while also finishing runner-up to Sharjah in the league.

Arruabarrena’s dismissal last month came as a huge shock, since Shabab Al Ahli sat top of the table – a position they still occupy as the AGL remains shut down amid the coronavirus crisis. In January, defeat to Al Nasr in the Arabian Gulf Cup final precipitated a run of negative results that culminated in Arruabarrena’s departure.