The Football Association hopes to finalise a deal within the next 24 hours for Bert van Marwijk to become the UAE manager.
Negotiations with the 66-year-old Dutchman are at an advanced stage, although as of yet nothing has been concluded. Van Marwijk will travel to the Emirates to thrash out the details on a contract the FA expects will take him through to the 2022 World Cup.
Other names remain in the frame – the FA had whittled down possible candidates to a three-man shortlist – however Van Marwijk is set to replace Alberto Zaccheroni. The Italian’s tenure concluded following the UAE’s exit, as hosts, at the semi-finals of the Asian Cup in late January. He had been in charge for 15 months.
Van Marwijk represents an obvious choice for the FA, especially considering his work most recently with Saudi Arabia. The former Netherlands manager, who led his country to a runner-up finish at the 2010 World Cup, was appointed in 2015 and guided the Gulf country to qualification for last summer’s tournament, sealing their first appearance at a global finals since 2006.
Van Marwijk was relieved of his duties almost immediately after, though, but went on to manage Australia in Russia on a short-term contract. The then-Asian champions failed to make it out of their group. Since then, he has been acting as advisor to former assistant Mark van Bommel at PSV Eindhoven.
The FA had previously approached Van Marwijk for the vacant national team job before eventually opting for Zaccheroni in October 2017. Van Marwijk’s time with Saudi Arabia was viewed as particularly impressive and included matches against the UAE during World Cup qualification.
The Saudis defeated their regional rivals 3-0 in Jeddah in October 2016 before losing the corresponding fixture 2-1 in Al Ain 10 months later. A 1-0 victory at home to Japan in their final qualifier secured the spot in Russia.
Van Marwijk was replaced shortly after by Edgardo Bauza, who had been managing the UAE, but the Argentine was soon replaced by Juan Antonio Pizzi. Pizzi departed following Saudi Arabia’s last-16 exit to Japan at the Asian Cup.
The FA has placed great emphasis on a manager with a coherent, long-term plan with qualification for the next World Cup their primary objective. The UAE have only once previously reached football’s marquee event, in 1990.
The current squad gathered in Abu Dhabi on Sunday for their upcoming friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Syria. The matches take place on Thursday and next Tuesday, respectively, with the Saudi Arabia encounter to be played at Al Nahyan Stadium and the Syria match at the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium. Van Marwijk could be in the stands for both.
Saleem Abdelrahman, part of Zaccheroni’s staff for the Asian Cup, will remain in temporary charge for those two fixtures irrespective if the deal for Van Marwijk is completed. Qualification for the next World Cup begins in September.