Zlatko Dalic on brink of World Cup glory with Croatia — just four years after coaching in Saudi Arabia

Former Al-Hilal coach Zlatko Dalic will take charge of Croatia in the World Cup final. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2018
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Zlatko Dalic on brink of World Cup glory with Croatia — just four years after coaching in Saudi Arabia

  • Dalic led Al-Hilal to cup glory in 2013
  • 'All the best next Sunday' tweet the Riyadh giants

LONDON: Al-Hilal are rooting for their former coach to topple France and pull off an unlikely World Cup win on Sunday.
Zlatko Dalic has choreogrpahed Croatia’s fairytale run to the final of the tournament in Russia yet just four years ago he was in charge of Al-Hilal. His period in Riyadh is clearly fondly remembered.
“Congratulations to @DalicZlatko on qualifying for the #WorldCup final,” read a tweet from the club Twitter’s account. “All the best next Sunday.”
In 2013, Dalic was promoted mid-season from managing the club's B team when Antoine Kombouare left and he won the Saudi Prince Cup and finished runners-up in the Saudi Pro League, but his contract was not extended that summer and he was replaced by Sami Al-Jaber.
Dalic won 11 of his 18 games in charge and left the King Fahd International Stadium with a win percentage of 61. He went on to coach in Al-Ain for three years before landing the Croatia job last year.
“Zlatko remains very popular there,” said Khalid Ghadin, who works for the Saudi Professional League. “When he left Hilal he had many lucrative offers from clubs smaller than Hilal, but he rejected them all. It was the same when he left Al-Ain. He always said he would not be guided by money, and now he is coach of his national team.”

Dalic also acknowledged the support he has received from the Gulf in a tweet.

 


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 20 July 2018
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Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.