Champions Al Ain sacked Quique Sanchez Flores on Saturday night, ending weeks of speculation about the Spaniard's future, and placed new technical supervisor Zlatko Dalic in temporary charge of the first team.
Croatian Dalic, who only began work at the club on Wednesday, took charge of training last night and will see the team through to the end of the season.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khaled, Al Ain chairman, said Dalic would then have his contract reviewed by the technical committee before any decision on an extension is made.
“The change is normal under the circumstances we were in,” Sheikh Mohammed said at a quickly-arranged news conference on Saturday night.
“We had a poor start to the season and Quique was given a tough task. We certainly appreciate the work he did to lead the team to the President’s Cup final and a winning start in the Asian Champions League [ACL].
“However, he has not been able to lift the team’s fortunes in the league. We were patient with him, but the improvements didn’t come as we expected and then we had to make this decision.
“We are aware of the tough games ahead, particularly the next game against Al Ittihad away, but we hope the experience and knowledge of Dalic in the Gulf region will help to achieve a good result.”
Appearing at the same news conference, Sanchez Flores said he would return to manage a European team next season.
“I would like to thank everyone, particularly the players, for the support they have extended to me during my time at the club,” he said. “It is entirely the decision of the club that I am leaving. I came in at a difficult time and needed time.
“It is true we had some poor results in the league. In some games, we didn’t have any luck.
“However, I cannot hide the happiness leading them to the President’s Cup final and making a winning start in the ACL.
“I can now only wish the team the very best for the upcoming match and the rest of the season.”
The move by Al Ain was no surprise. The National reported on February 24 that Al Ain had decided to dispense with the services of Sanchez Flores and that the Spaniard had only to negotiate a compensation package.
Sanchez Flores’s position had been under threat after he had failed to turn around Al Ain’s fortunes since he was installed in late September.
He had replaced Jorge Fossati, who was dismissed after 49 days in charge before the league had even begun.
Since his arrival, the club have six victories in 16 Arabian Gulf League matches a sequence that has them eighth in the table and left their hopes of a third successive title ruined.
Dalic, 47, spent more than three seasons in Saudi Arabia, managing Al Faisaly in 2010/11 before two seasons at Al Hilal. Al Ain will leave on a chartered aircraft for Mecca after Monday night’s training for their second match in the ACL, against Ittihad on Wednesday.
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