Al Hilal set sights on Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic as successor if Jorge Jesus departs

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Al Ain’s record-breaking boss Zoran Mamic has entered detailed talks to takeover at Saudi giants Al Hilal after a terminal breakdown in the relationship with Jorge Jesus, putting their Arabian Gulf League title defence in serious jeopardy.

Reverberations were sent through the Middle East late on Sunday night when Al Riyadh stated an ongoing failure to get celebrated ex-Benfica and Sporting Lisbon supremo Jesus to commit his future until November’s finale of the 2019 AFC Champions League, or ink an extension until 2022, had sparked a decision to imminently end his successful seven-month tenure. Further sources have confirmed an announcement about the 64-year-old’s departure is expected in the aftermath of Sunday’s Saudi Professional League outing at Al Feiha.

Mamic, 47, is the chosen successor. He has worked wonders in the Garden City since he was controversially poached from Riyadh’s Al Nassr in February 2017, winning a club-first AGL and President’s Cup double in 2017/18 and then honourably losing 4-1 to Real Madrid in last month’s Club World Cup final.

The ex-Croatia defender has less than six months remaining on his Al Ain deal. It will take a remarkable smoothing out of the fractured relationship between Jesus and Hilal to prevent his departure being confirmed in the coming week.

Mamic revived a squad that had lost its lustre under compatriot Zlatko Dalic after the painful 2016 ACL final loss to South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

He currently boasts a 56-per-cent win percentage, plus sees Al Ain sit three points behind shock top-flight leaders Sharjah at the halfway stage – with a game in hand.

The Boss also remained loyal to Mamic in the wake of June 2018’s four-year prison sentence handed out in Croatia for his role in a multi-million-euro abuse of power and graft, related to his spell at Dinamo Zagreb as sporting director and head coach. He disputes the conviction.

If Mamic does leave, it will continue a disruptive winter break.

Influential Egypt midfielder Hussein El Shahat’s boyhood wish was granted with a $5 million move to Al Ahly. Brazilian forward Caio – named second-best player at the CWC – travelled to Portugal and was widely reported to have inked a free-transfer switch to Benfica upon the expiration of his contract in June.

No replacement has been procured for El Shahat. Esperance de Tunis forward Anice Badri and Levante’s Emmanuel Boateng have been linked, without signing.

This could see CWC specialist addition Tongo Doumbia, a Mali defensive midfielder, added to the four-player foreign quartet.

Al Ain’s resumption in the AGL is penciled in for February 5, against relegation-battlers Emirates Club.

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