Abu Dhabi: After Dutch coach Henk Ten Cate’s exit from Al Jazira, Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic is awaiting a verdict from his club on the extension of his contract. It is learnt that the club management will be making an announcement in a couple of days.
Al Ain suffered a 4-1 setback at the hands of Qatari side Al Duhail and crashed out of the AFC Champions League Round 16. It was the club’s biggest aggregate loss 8-3 against a team from Qatar. In the first leg at home, Al Ain had ended up with a disappointing 4-2 loss.
Mamic had signed an 18-month contract and had taken over from another Croatian, Zlatko Dalic, at a time when the club had already lost every chance of winning a domestic trophy in the 2016-17 season.
The only competition Mamic had a hope of winning that campaign was the Champions League. He saw the side safely through the last 16, handing Esteghlal a crushing defeat. In the quarters, however, they were eliminated by Al Hilal.
In his first full season as coach, Mamic has managed to bring back the glory days for The Boss. Al Ain were in total dominance in the Arabian Gulf League and eventually clinched the title with a seven-point gap over second-placed capital club Al Wahda. Al Ain won the title scoring an average of over three goals per game and also recorded most goals in the history of the competition.
Winning the Arabian Gulf League thus ended Al Ain’s two-year title drought and it was Al Ain’s 13th Arabian Gulf League title. Then within three days, they had another trophy under their belt — the President’s Cup — which they won by beating Al Wasl 2-1 in the final. With that double success, Mamic also entered the history books as the first Al Ain coach to win two titles in a season.
Despite all that, many are of the view that Mamic is a touch lucky and his success has more to do with a talented side at his disposal. His tactics, often when the side have their backs to the wall, are questionable, especially when it comes to using substitutions.
These two crushing defeats at the hands of the best side Al Duhail, who are unbeaten in the AFC Champions League, is more ammunition for his critics.
It is highly unlikely that Al Ain would will start their search for a new coach any time soon, especially when Mamic has success to show and even expressed his willingness to continue.
However, with the high-profile Club World Cup competition to look forward to in December, it will be interesting to see for how long his contract will be renewed for. The team start their training camp immediately after the Ramadan break.
After Tuesday’s match, Mamic revealed that the absence of key strikers — Brazilian Caio and Swedish international Marcus Berg — was not the only reason for the Champions League loss.
“The opposite team had played well and deserved to win and qualify for the quarter-finals of the AFC Championship,” said Mamic, adding, “I talked about the strong return because hope is there and the chances were present, but in football, hope alone is not enough.”