Mourinho backing Karanka for Al Ahli job

Chris McHardy
Mourinho backing Karanka for Al Ahli job

Jose Mourinho has recommended his former Real Madrid assistant Aitor Karanka for the vacant Al Ahli post.

Ahli have been on the lookout for a new manager since Quique Sanchez Flores' shock departure on June 11 after the Spaniard turned down a new contract for a "new challenge" elsewhere.

A host of names have been linked with vacancy including former Al Jazira boss Abel Braga and Al Ain's title-winning coach Cosmin Olaroiu, although Ahli have publicly distanced themselves from a move for the Romanian.

Sport360° also understands talk of a move for Fluminense boss Braga is wide of the mark with the Brazilian not interested in a return to the Gulf, at least not at this stage of his career.

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Karanka, though, remains a viable option with many believing he is the perfect man to continue on from Quique's stellar of the past 19 months which saw Ahli win both the Etisalat Cup (2012) and President's Cup (2013).

A source close to Karanka has told Sport360° that the 39-year-old is "very motivated" by the prospect of taking up the managerial reins at the Rashed Stadium after serving his apprenticeship under Mourinho during his three-year tenure at Madrid.

Karanka was plucked from the relative obscurity of Spain Under-16 boss to become Mourinho's assistant in 2010, going onto become a close and trusted confidant of the Portuguese.

So much so that Mourinho, who has since returned to Chelsea, recently spoke with Ahli chairman Abdallah Al Naboodah, whom he met last December during a trip to Dubai, championing Karanka's case for the post.

The 50-year-old was keen to take the former Madrid and Athletic Bilbao defender with him to Stamford Bridge as part of his backroom staff, only for Karanka to turn down the opportunity as he eyes a club management role.

Karanka's stock is on the rise after proving himself a talented young coach under Mourinho's watchful eye and he has already been linked with the likes of Anzhi Makhachkala and Monaco.

Sport360° also understands he was also approached by Everton during their search for a successor to David Moyes, only for the Premier League club to appoint Roberto Martinez after considering several candidates.

Mourinho's backing of Karanka for the Ahli post shows just how highly he rates his former assistant having previously only ever endorsed one man - his former protege, Andre Villas-Boas, for the Academica post in 2009.

Ahli said earlier this week they were "very close" to making an appointment with their shortlist whittled down to just two men, one of which is believed to be Karanka.

However, with the club no nearer to an appointment despite Al Naboodah announcing on Monday that a decision would be made within "48 hours", it appears they are still undecided on who the right man is to take the club forward next season.


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