Rumors or not, Cosmin Olaroiu is the next UAE manager in waiting

This certainly isn’t the first time Olaroiu has been linked with the national team job

Graham Ruthven

Published: Updated:

They say no smoke without fire. In the case of rumors speculating that Al Ahli manager Cosmin Olaroiu will succeed Mahdi Ali as national team boss the embers have been smoldering for some time now. They were stoked again recently. If the cliché about smoke and fire is indeed true it can’t be long before there is a raging blaze at the top of the Emirati game.

Ali hasn’t done much to extinguish such flames. He was non-committal over his future as national team manager following the Whites’ World Cup qualification win over Iraq last month, once again raising questions of the UAE’s long-term direction.

Of course, with the UAE team just one point behind group leaders Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race to make to the 2018 World Cup Ali is still doing a credible job. There is no question that he will be sacked before this phase of qualification is complete. But in terms of the country’s long-term footballing vision Olaroiu is viewed by many as the man to take the UAE forward.

“Like I’ve said before, I am the Al Ahli coach and I hope to win many titles with them and I will always give my best to Al Ahli,” the Romanian responded when asked about the speculation last week. “The national team have a good coach and they have had some good results. I think they have a good chance of qualifying for the World Cup but I think people should believe in him [Ali] to do his job.”

This certainly isn’t the first time Olaroiu has been linked with the national team job. Speculation was stirred earlier in the year, when he responded in a similar way. “The words that were spread are just rumors, like before when they were about me coaching the Romania national team,” he said back in October.

From the perspective of the Whites, Olaroiu would be a shrewd appointment should he be hired as Ali’s successor. Despite enjoyed a great degree of success as UAE national team manager in recent years Ali has found himself the subject of much protestation in 2016, with ‘Sack Mahdi’ trending on social media after the World Cup qualification defeat to Saudi Arabia earlier in the campaign.

There is a sense that Ali, for his own sake, might step aside, which is where Olaroiu could come in. From his standpoint, taking the national team boss at the end of the current World Cup qualification cycle might prove the ideal jumping off point for the Romanian at Al Ahli. This season has been something of a struggle for the Romanian, with the Knights winning just one of their last five matches. Olaroiu will have to pull a rabbit out the hat if Al Ahli are to retain their title.

The Romanian has become a strong figure at the top of the Emirati game since arriving in the UAE as Al Ain five years ago. Olaroiu would likely be the strongest candidate the Whites could lure to take the job should it become vacant, having won titles and trophies in four different countries. His pedigree in Gulf football is unparalleled given his success in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and of course the UAE.

Olaroiu would appear to be the natural successor to Ali, and so it is unsurprising that speculation has stirred over his future. That’s if he doesn’t opt for a return to Romania, with some suggesting he could be lured back to his homeland. The UAE might have to move quickly if they are to keep one of their most commanding figures.

Some will point to his dismal stint as Saudi Arabia manager as a form of rebuttal, and that should be taken into consideration. But in charge for only the 2015 Asian Cup Olaroiu never really stood a chance. He was a stop-gap appointment. For the UAE he would be a long term solution and the obvious candidate.