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Mamic proud of his Al Ain charges

Abu Dhabi:  Head coach Zoran Mamic has hailed his players after Al Ain finished runners-up in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 on Saturday.

UAE Pro League champions Al Ain went from nearly crashing out in the first round to making history by becoming the first Emirati side to finish as FIFA Club World Cup runners-up.

And though a gruelling schedule of four games in 10 days finally took its toll against the European champions, Mamic believes his team’s experience will prove extremely valuable going forward.

Al Ain’s rollercoaster tournament finally came to an end as Real Madrid beat them 4-1 in Abu Dhabi.

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“It’s difficult to say what may have happened if we had more time but of course it’s always better to have two-to-three more days to recover," said Mamic.

"I respect the format, this is the concept of the tournament, you have to play every three days. It was hard for us, but these are the rules.

“The biggest plus for me is that the team believed they could make a good result in this tournament and achieved it. As a coach, I’m happy the team followed our instructions and tried to do what we prepared them for in the final.

“It’s a great thing that my players know they can play at a higher level and good for me to know I have lots of quality in the team.”

Mamic also insisted he is “very happy” at Al Ain after being linked with a move away from the UAE in the wake of the club’s phenomenal run to the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 final.

Mamic’s stock has never been higher after guiding Al Ain to the final and he is reportedly on the radar of several European clubs. But while the Croatian admitted such a move would be interesting, he pledged his immediate future to Al Ain.

“It’s no secret that my dream is to be a manager or coach in Europe, but I am here in Al Ain and I am happy here,” Mamic said.

“This club has given me the chance to be part of this great competition, and take part with Al Ain, a great club and biggest team in this area. In the future, we never know.

“For every coach and player, it’s always a dream to go to a bigger league. I played in Germany for nine years, I speak German. Maybe on day something comes, but you never know. I concentrate on my job, do it properly and we’ll see what comes along.”

Many of Mamic’s players have caught the eye of the wider football world with their displays during the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018, notably Brazilian midfielder Caio (pictured above, right) and Egyptian winger Hussein El Shahat.

The latter has been linked with several UAE clubs but the Croatian is hoping he can hang on to his star performers, some of whom are in the final six months of their contracts.

“Caio can sign for free in January. I hope Al Ain find a way to keep him in our club, it will be a big loss if we lose a player of his quality.”

Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari was understandably delighted to lift his first trophy in the Los Blancos hotseat but the former Bernabeu midfielder was full of praise for Al Ain’s efforts in the FIFA Club World Cup.

“Al Ain’s performances were fantastic all through the tournament,” Solari said. “Al Ain is the only team that were not a continental champion, but they eliminated the Oceania champions, the African champions and River Plate to be here – they deserved to play the final.

“They fought hard and put in a lot of effort, so after the game I was congratulating them for the effort they put into the competition.”

Photos: FIFA via Getty Images