Javier Clemente: "To help Iran learn and improve"
[GALLO/GETTY]
Former Spain and Serbia coach Javier Clemente has accepted an offer to take charge of the Iranian national side during the qualification phase for the 2010 World Cup.

The three-times Asian Cup winners have been without a coach since the departure of Amir Ghalenoei after they were knocked out of the competition by South Korea in the quarter-finals last July.

"Yes, I've accepted the offer," Clemente said.

"My aim is to help Iran learn and improve as a team."

The Iran Football Federation (FFI) announced last month they had appointed Clemente but the Spaniard said his decision would depend on a visit to Iran.

"Last week's visit to Iran went well," said Clemente, who explained that he would not live in Iran but would travel to the country only to prepare the team for their matches.

"It has been decided that I will go back and forth between Spain and Iran in order to coach the team," he said. "I won't be living there."

The 57-year-old added that informal talks with Osasuna's Iranian international midfielder Javad Nekounam had helped him make up his mind and decide to take the job.

"The conversations I had with Nekounam were very useful. They were of great help," he said.

Big challenge

Clemente faces the enormous task of transforming the team into a respectable force and living up to growing expectations from Iranian fans who see him as a saviour.

Iran got their World Cup qualifying campaign off to a disappointing start when they were held to a 0-0 draw by Syria last Wednesday.

Iran and Syria contest the all-Middle East Group Five along with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Iran will be the third national side that Clemente has coached in his career.

He took charge of Spain after their failure to qualify for the 1992 European Championship in Sweden, guiding them to both the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup and Euro 96.

He was appointed Serbia coach in July 2006, but was sacked in December last year after the team ended their Euro 2008 qualification campaign in third place behind Poland and Portugal and failed to make the tournament.

As a club coach he achieved his greatest success at Athletic Bilbao, steering the Basque side to the league title in 1983 and a league and cup double the following season.

His other clubs include Atletico Madrid, Espanyol, Real Sociedad, Real Betis and Olympique Marseille.

Source: Agencies