Al Jazira Sports Director Mads Davidsen on strategy for sustainable success, Omar Abdulrahman and Marcel Keizer


According to sporting director Mads Davidsen, Al Jazira now has the strategy of becoming “both a top club in the UAE and a top club in Asia”.

The Dane, who previously helped orchestrate the glory for Shanghai SIPG in the Chinese Super League, was hired last June to achieve “sustainable sporting success” at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. The results have been encouraging since then as Marcel Keiser’s youthful squad took a promising second place halfway through despite owning the youngest Arabian Gulf League squad (average age 25.1 years) and the only team to refuse last summer to cast his foreign quartet.

This process has been codified in the past few weeks after a master plan was approved by the board from the academy to the first team.

“First you have to look at how you want to build a club,” said Davidsen on a Zoom call to reporters about the blueprint. “Today, football clubs are very dependent on the head coach.

“You give the coach the keys to the club and let him decide everything. Then after 17 months, statistically speaking, they switch coaches and throw the keys to the new coach and hope again.

“We see it differently. We have described our style of play as a club that will never change.

“Our philosophy will never change, even if the coach changes. That is the core of our strategy.

“A club-defined style of play, a club-defined methodology and a club-defined recruiting strategy.

“We see recruiting differently. We look inward first and not outward, unlike others.

“Do we need a right or left winger? If so, what do we have in the academy?

“Every time you buy one player, it delays the development of another.

“We are constantly balancing between when we really have to buy because of the quality, or when the quality isn’t that high, which gives local players opportunities.

“We want to try to play as many local players as possible. Our squad is over 50 percent [home-grown players]it should rise to 60 percent in the coming seasons.

“The academy is connected, it’s the way to develop better players. With foreign quality, of course.

“With a continuous style of play, that’s our competitive advantage. We will achieve better and better results in the future.

“We want to be a top club in the UAE and a top club in Asia.”

Jazira was previously known for raising huge sums of money for non-Emirati headlines such as George Weah, Phillip Cocu, Ricardo Oliveira, Abdelaziz Barrada and Manuel Lanzini.

It was an approach that at times brought joy with AGL trophies in 2010/11 and 2016/17.

Davidsen’s approach has accelerated an existing shift in focus where they consistently have the most players on the UAE roster. A seven-man contingent has been called up by returning Bert van Marwijk for the goalless friendly against Iraq this month.

The coveted central defender Khalifa Al Hammadi, the youngest player in the white team at the Asian Cup in January 2019, has signed a contract extension until 2025. Extensions to 2023 have also been given to Serbian defender Milos Kosanovic, South African midfielder Thulani Serero and United Arab Emirates goalkeeper Ali Khaseif.

Continuity is key, but that doesn’t mean that recruiting will be ignored. Abu Dhabi pride increased its numbers last week with the return of the academy product Mohamed Jamal after a brief stint at Al Ain that included only one top run-out.

Before the end of the transfer market on February 1st, rumors of a fourth foreigner continue to exist.

“People talk about transfers all the time, especially foreign players,” said Davidsen. “When you see [forward] For example Zayed Al Ameri, now he’s done really well this season, scoring five goals and is back in the UAE.

“If I had signed a foreign player in his position, would he have done that?

“Every time you buy one player, you are delaying someone else’s development. We buy players when they are significantly better than us. “

He added, “We did what we said and that creates credibility. We told young players, “We believe in you.”

“We signed them with longer contracts to show that we believe in them.

“We can only do that if we don’t keep buying players. We believe in the local players.

“As a result, there are only limited signings for Al Jazira and more local players.”

However, this does not mean that the flashy winter business is off the table. Interestingly enough, Davidsen teased the possibility that “a gamer is coming inside of us” when interviewed.

He stated, “No, we will never change our strategy. That is very easy.

“But that doesn’t mean we won’t sign any players. It’s not black or white – it has to make sense.

“We’re just looking for a good price-performance ratio. We’ll never be a club that spends too much just to bring individuals into the house.

“We see football as a collective game.

“Maybe a player will come to us. The window is still open

“But it couldn’t happen either. We are not stressed.

“We believe in our players. So we don’t panic. “

Keizer is critical to the profitable implementation of this strategy. The training to become a player and coach at Ajax has shown itself in both terms of office in the MBZ stadium.

The 52-year-old returned to Jazira in October 2019 with a contract until June 2021 after a brief, trophy-laden stay at Sporting Lisbon came to an abrupt end. He led them to third place before being suspended for coronavirus in 2019/20 as he got better this season.

Will the Dutchman be the next person to sign new terms, especially when a comeback in the AFC Champions League – after four years – is assured for 2022?

“I can’t go into details but it’s pretty obvious that Marcel is doing a good job,” Davidsen replied. “We are also satisfied with his performance.

“Then we have to see.”

Another prominent figure in the capital is the AFC Player of the Year 2016, Omar Abdulrahman. However, the celebrated playmaker has sustained a knee injury since the 1-1 draw with Al Dhafra on October 23.

Davidsen provided information on the condition of the 29-year-old.

He revealed, “Amoory is doing his rehabilitation. He was operated on a few months ago.

“With this type of injury, it’s always difficult to set a schedule.

“It’s a weekly monitor. But he’s fine and he’s trying to get back as soon as possible. “

Jazira will resume on Friday with fourth-placed Al Nasr’s visit to the AGL.

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