Bert van Marwijk has emerged as the UAE Football Association’s principal target to become the new national team manager.
Initial contact was made this week with the Dutchman’s representatives after the FA set up a three-man committee, headed by federation vice president Abdulla Naser Al Junaibi, to determine the criteria for possible candidates.
The FA is seeking a replacement for Edgardo Bauza, who was allowed last week to leave for the Saudi Arabia national team. The Argentine had been in charge of the UAE for only three competitive matches, but could not rescue their failing bid to reach next summer's World Cup.
Ironically, Bauza took the reins at Saudi Arabia only after Van Marwijk had left the team. The 65-year-old former Netherlands manager guided the Saudis earlier this month to clinching a place at the World Cup in Russia, but his contract was not renewed. He is now the UAE's preferred choice to succeed Bauza, although negotiations are at an early stage.
Should both parties fail to come to an agreement, then the FA will consider other options. Those include Jurgen Klinsmann, the former US national team manager, and Javier Aguirre, the Mexican who recently spent two years at Al Wahda before leaving the Abu Dhabi club in May. Aguirre has international experience also, having previously managed Mexico and Japan. Cosmin Olaroiu, the Romanian in charge of Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, is no longer a candidate. Argentine Ricardo Gareca, the Peru national team manager, remains of interest, though.
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Yet Van Marwijk's appeal is obvious. Appointed as Saudi Arabia manager in August 2015, he turned around a struggling side to eventually lead them to a place at the World Cup. The Saudis, who had not appeared at a global finals since 2006, sealed their spot by defeating Japan 1-0 in Jeddah on September 5 in their final Group B fixture. The win secured second in the standings behind the Japanese.
However, relations between Van Marwijk and his employers grew strained soon after, with the Saudi federation announcing his departure last week. Bauza, 60, will oversee the team’s World Cup campaign.
Previous to his role in Saudi, Van Marwijk had managed Hamburg and Borussia Dortmund in Germany, and Feyenoord in his native Netherlands. He was the Netherlands national team manager between 2008 and 2012, guiding his country to the 2010 World Cup final. The Netherlands lost 1-0 to Spain in extra time.