Nothing is guaranteed in football.
The cycle of success and – relatively – failure is relentless even for the most endowed sites. Al Hilal’s 2020/21 roller coaster exemplified this in Saudi Arabia, while the current British record run of 15 games in Manchester City was preceded by a time when Pep Guardiola was repeatedly interviewed.
However, there are remedies to mitigate this. Enter Al Jazira.
Abu Dhabi pride is not yet at the top this term. In fact, they have only won two Arabian Gulf League titles in their entire 46-year existence.
However, the structural changes in the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium are a role model for all clubs in the Middle East.
Identify a strategy for “sustainable sporting success” and inevitable boom and bust phases can be alleviated.
This requires a well-thought-out methodology of how a thread can be traversed from the academy to the first team, as well as a detailed analysis of how foreign recruits are identified.
Such a blueprint is vital in European competitions. Barcelona’s sublime La Masia stands at the top.
In AFC leagues, where the transfer business is more restricted, its importance should be further expanded.
It is an uphill battle to claim AGL supremacy without the foundation of exceptional Emirati players. Four foreigners of open age and up to six U21 players, split between the first team and the U21 players, are allowed. There are six players in every matchday squad, but they can only do so many.
With this in mind, the competition for the best local players is intense – and expensive. It is smarter to think long term and produce as many in-house as possible.
The latest results have been hugely encouraging for Jazira.
The 23 top goals their Emiratis – a collection of purchases and self-cultivation – achieved in 2020/21 are 10 more than Al Wasl’s closest contemporaries. The current 25-person training camp of Bert van Marwijk, the head of the United Arab Emirates, is dominated by a seven-person Jazira contingent, two more than Al Wahda’s five. Only one injury to defender Mohammed Al Attas prevents it from turning eight.
This cohort is so strong that they finished the first half of the campaign in second place, despite being the only competitors hiring three high-ranking foreigners. A situation that was rectified late in winter when Curacao winger Brandley Kuwas moved from Al Nasr.
The agent-controlled approach used by many, but not all, is diametrically opposed to that in the MBZ. Also teams that enable the head coach in charge, which means that the requirements of the management correspond to the whim of a revolving door of people who may have very different needs and tactical framework conditions.
It is of course not the first time that such a forward-looking structure has been attempted in the region. Far from it.
Jazira himself experienced an unfulfilled stay between December 2015 and August 2016 with the former technical director of Brescia, West Ham United and Watford, Gianluca Nani.
You are also not the only site currently connected to it. Just over an hour’s drive away are Al Ain and its sports director David Platt.
The 2018/19 Saudi league champions Al Nassr have also tried to break into the domestic market.
Seldom has this outlook been crystallized so transparently.
They believe, and rightly judged by the latest results, that since being hired in June by a forward-looking board of directors, Masterplan Sports Director Mads Davidsen has been tasked with formulating it to make the club competitively and financially rich.
It cemented a process that began in 2015 of encouraging an uninterrupted line of like-minded Dutch managers to entrust local players. Foreign purchases are tailored to consistent needs.
The later successor of the cultivated midfielder of the Moroccan center, Mbark Boussoufa, to the South African metronome Thulani Serero is just one example.
Prominent youth such as Abdullah Ramadan, Khalifa Al Hammadi and Al Attas were first introduced before Davidsen’s procurement. However, the Dane is there to ensure potential clients like Ahmed Fawzi and Hazza Subait. who scored 20 goals in the U-21 AGL this season – get the best chance to follow them.
There are many others among this couple as well.
Jazira’s last trophy was the AGL 2016/17, while they have not been in the AFC Champions League since 2018.
However, a course should – in David’s words – become “a top club in the UAE and a top club in Asia” without incurring prohibitive costs. Others should think about how to join them.
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