Zlatko Dalic hopes to stay at Al Ain for ‘a long time’ amid links to Croatia vacancy

Al Ain coach linked to job leading Croatian national team, but Dalic says he hopes to stay at the Arabian Gulf League club for a "long time".

Zlatko Dalic has been linked with the Croatia position but insists he wants to stay at Al Ain. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Zlatko Dalic has denied he is interested in managing Croatia and instead reiterated his commitment to Al Ain.

The Croat, 48, has been linked with a return to his homeland after Niko Kovac was dismissed as coach last week following a poor run of results in 2016 European Championship qualifying. Croatia, third in Group H with two matches remaining, are at risk of failing to advance to the finals.

Dalic has been touted as a potential replacement for Kovac because his stock remains high in Croatia. Between 2006 and 2011, he was assistant manager of the national team’s Under 21 side.

Dalic joined Al Ain in February 2014, originally as a technical director, before succeeding Quique Sanchez Flores the following month. The former Al Hilal coach says he is focused on his role with the UAE champions, although he did not rule out managing Croatia in future.

“I have my job here, and so I stop rumours about the situation,” he said. “All my focus is on my club. From my first day in this country, I have been happy.

“My target is to do my job here. Inshallah, I will stay here for a long time. This is a country I love. I have time for the national team; I am too young for the national team. All my focus is here.”

During his time in the Garden City, Dalic has guided Al Ain to the 2014 President’s Cup and last season’s Arabian Gulf League title. He also led the club to the semi-finals of the 2014 Asian Champions League – their best performance in nine years. His contract with Al Ain will run out at the end of the current season.

Meanwhile, Dalic has urged Al Ain supporters to back loan signing Emmanuel Emenike. The Nigerian arrived this summer on a one-year deal from Fenerbahce as successor to Asamoah Gyan, the prolific striker who transferred to China’s Shanghai SIPG in July.

Gyan, a three-time Golden Boot winner, scored 95 goals in 83 league matches for Al Ain, placing significant pressure on Emenike. However, he has started well: Sunday night’s match-winning double in the 2-0 victory against Al Wasl took his tally to four goals in three competitive games for Al Ain.

Dalic said: “We have to forget Gyan. He left and Emenike is here. He scored two goals again. Sure, he has a hard job to replace Gyan, but he scored two goals.”