|Quique Sanchez Flores won the UEFA Europa League with Atletico Madrid in 2010 [GALLO/GETTY]|
Dubai club Al Ahli has hired former Valencia and Atletico Madrid coach Quique Sanchez Flores to replace fired Czech Ivan Hasek.
The Spaniard led Atletico to Europa League triumph and the Copa del Rey final in 2009. Sanchez Flores, a former Real Madrid defender, also previously coached Getafe and Valencia.
He replaces Hasek, who won the UAE league title with Al Ahli in 2009 but has struggled with the team this year, despite spending heavily for several Brazilians, including striker Grafite from Wolfsburg.
Al Alhi have lost two of their first three matches and sit third from the bottom in the standings. Hasek was fired on Monday.
Someone who has also made the switch from Europe to the UAE is Ghanian Asamaoh Gyan.
The striker has no regrets about leaving Sunderland and the Premier League and says his arrival in the UAE can help boost football in the Middle East.
The self-assured 25-year-old Ghana international striker had an acrimonious parting from Sunderland in August when he went out on loan to Al Ain.
Black Cats manager Steve Bruce was furious at the time, saying that 48 hours before saying he wanted to leave, Gyan had shaken his hand and told him he was staying at the club.
Bruce said “parasites” had turned his head over a big money move to the club in Abu Dhabi, but Gyan said in an
interview he was delighted with the way things have turned out and does not know if he will return to the Premier League.
“Its really working out well for me and I’m really happy for now. I have no regrets at all about leaving Sunderland”
Sitting in a museum by the River Thames at the launch of new artist-designed kits to be worn at the African Nations Cup in the New Year, Gyan, with a huge star shaved into his hair and a glittering diamond encrusted watch on his wrist said:
“I’m really enjoying myself.”
“Its really working out well for me and I’m really happy for now. I have no regrets at all about leaving Sunderland because everyone supported me, my family, everyone was positive so I moved without any doubt.”
Gyan cost Sunderland a club record fee of $20.98 million when they signed him from Rennes in August 2010 after he came to prominence for Ghana during last year’s World Cup in South Africa.
He was Sunderland’s top scorer in his debut season with 10 league goals, but was continually linked with a move.
UAE football improving
At the time Gyan responded to Bruce’s remarks that the offer was too good to turn down and that he did not have a choice of staying once Sunderland accepted Al-Ain’s offer.
Two months on, while admitting the obvious that the standard in the UAE is not as high as the Premier League, he says his reason for being there are more than just about the huge salary he is reportedly earning.
“Everybody knows the English Premiership is top in the world with more exposure and everything but the UAE league is improving in terms of football,” he said.
“When I went there I thought to myself ‘this is not what people are talking about, they are playing good football.’
|Gyan is enjoying his time in the UAE and picking up more fans around the world [GALLO/GETTY]|
“People are looking up to me in Africa. I have more fans in Europe. After last season, who knows? Maybe I am getting more exposure in this league – it is improving, and I think I might be able to help that League improve.
“Football in England was not always what it is now, the league had to improve, well its the same all over the world.”
The UAE season has just started and Al Ain are second in the table behind Al Jazira after three games with Gyan having scored two of their six league goals, but he will be missing for a number of league games in the New Year when he returns to Africa for the Nations Cup finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
And what of the future after the African Cup and the loan deal with Al Ain ends ?
“Yes, I am on loan for one season with options. I will decide at the end of the season whether I am coming back to the Premiership or going somewhere else,” he said.
“I am still a player with Sunderland, but I have four or five options on how things are going to be and then I will decide where my future lies.”