Luis de la Fuente in running to become next UAE manager

Spaniard has been considered as a replacement for the sacked Jovanovic

CORDOBA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Luis De La Fuente of Spain U21 looks on prior to the start the international friendly between Spain U21 and Germany U21 at Nuevo Arcangel on October 10, 2019 in Cordoba, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images for DFB)

Luis de la Fuente has emerged as a possible candidate to become the new UAE national team manager.

The Spaniard, who guided his country to success at last year’s Under-21 European Championship, has been considered as a replacement for Ivan Jovanovic, who was dismissed in March having not taken charge of a match.

It is believed the Football Association has narrowed its search to four names, with a decision likely to be taken within the next week. All managers on the shortlist are European.

Vuk Rasovic, the Serbian in charge of Arabian Gulf League side Al Dhafra, has been heavily linked.

De La Fuente, 58, is understood to be very interested in the role and has apparently already watched a number of both UAE and Arabian Gulf League matches.

A La Liga winner as a player with Athletic Bilbao in the early 1980s, the former defender has worked in the Spanish Football Federation since 2013, first taking charge of the U-18 and U-19 teams. In 2015, he led the latter to the U19 Euros title.

Last summer, De La Fuente mirrored that achievement at U-21s level with a side containing the likes of Dani Ceballos, Dani Olmo and Fabian Ruiz. In the final, Spain defeated defending champions Germany 2-1 to capture the trophy for a fifth time.

The FA have ramped up their search for a manager following confirmation on Wednesday that the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, postponed because of the coronavirus, had been rescheduled for October and November.

With four matches in round two remaining, the UAE sit fourth in Group G, five points off leaders Vietnam, although they do have a game in hand over all of their rivals.

They have yet to face Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam at home, and Indonesia away.

The fixtures were originally to take place in March and June, but were suspended in light of the pandemic.

Only the group winners are guaranteed to progress to the third round of qualification, alongside the four best runners-up from the eight groups.