The Argentine received a stay of executive this week following reports he was set for the sack, but how long can the 51-year-old continue if the on-field results fail to comeCOMMENT
By Ben Somerford | Asian Football Editor
The latest chapter in the long-running soap opera that is Diego Maradona's time in Dubai closed this week, as the Argentine legend escaped the axe, despite whispers emerging from the newly-appointed board of directors at Al Wasl that he'd get the chop.
The previous board of directors had enough with a mass resignation confirmed last week. Reports claimed some of the board were tired of the club's futile direction under Maradona, who has been a commercial success for Al Wasl, but practically a disaster on the field. Maradona's first season in charge saw the club collect no trophies, finish the league campaign down in eighth and somehow lose the final of the Gulf Clubs Championships after winning the first leg of the final 3-1 away from home.
It's been said before, but any other coach who delivered such results for a club with lofty ambitions, would not have lasted this long. However, Maradona isn't just anybody. His playing career and colourful nature make him a constant source of media attention, which Al Wasl and UAE's Pro-League have revelled in.
|MARADONA'S 2011-12 SEASON
Lost in quarters
Lost in quarters
Maradona's thirst to share his opinion on any footballing matter too, hardly makes for an ideal manager focused on his chief task, however it does attract a media throng to pour over his every word. That's the reality of Al Wasl's situation. It's hard to believe the board truly believe he can deliver on-field results. Commercially, though, he clearly has his benefits, however it's a delicate balancing act when that comes at the expense of actual footballing results.
There's people out there who would say that situation is farcical. However, UAE's Pro-League is a different beast to your usual European competition. It is a league striving for attention in the knowledge it cannot compete with the quality and standards of Europe. One of the methods to achieve this attention is signing big names, like Maradona.
Most outsiders' knowledge of the UAE Pro-League would be founded on this, as there is a perception that the Middle East region is full of leagues where footballers go to claim one final pay cheque before retirement, ala Fabio Cannavaro. Neighbouring Qatar put together a fund to recruit ageing big names to the domestic Stars League (QSL) in 2003, such as Gabriel Batistuta and Pep Guardiola, thus perpetuating this perception.
As the history of the QSL has shown, these signings are gimmicks. The players are no longer as good as they used to be and the effect of their presence wears off eventually.
|"Maradona's presence in Dubai is a gimmick and if the disappointing on-field results continue, his charm will soon wear off and relevance fade"|
In essence, Maradona's presence in Dubai is a similar gimmick (of course, he's a coach not a player, but the fans can see through it all) and if the disappointing on-field results continue, his charm will soon wear off and relevance fade. The question is can he deliver (many will argue he can't), and if not, how long will the new Al Wasl board be willing to wait?
They have invested heavily in Maradona, with his two-year contract being one of the biggest in world football, but there is a delicate balancing act in retaining someone's services purely for commercial reasons, which threatens to become farcical.
The clock is ticking on the 51-year-old Argentine's future and you seriously wonder if there's many options for him if things don't work out at Al Wasl.