Al Jazeera boss Marcel Keizer prepares to extend contract for AGL champions

Ambitious coach Marcel Keizer marked his contract extension by sending a disturbing message that “maybe next year can be better” to rule Arabian Gulf League champion of Al-Jazeera.

Emperor, 52, was rewarded last week with new conditions until June 2023 after leading his young Pride of Abu Dhabi team to a third top title. Thoughts have already turned to how a successful first defense in the club’s 47-year history can be crafted.

“We need new players because if you keep the same maybe it isn’t good enough,” he told media via a video call from his native Netherlands. “It’s also good to have competition within our own team.

“Let’s see what we can do with the foreign players. We haven’t decided yet, of course.

“But we are looking at the opportunities we have to improve the team.

“I think if we get players it’s good for the whole team. Because then everyone has a new challenge.

“Now what we did was good. But maybe next year we can be better.

He added: “We won the title, but in football every season is different. First you have to see what the team looks like at the start of the league.

“Can we have more foreigners or stay like last season?” What about the young academy players?

“You have to see now. The opponents are also very good clubs and teams.

“Are they going to buy different payers? We have to see.

“The only thing we can do is improve our game. Our game for a long time was very good last season.

“But there are still other improvements to be made. That’s the challenge for us next season.

Jazeera has already secured the future of Serbian central defender Milos Kosanovic and South African central midfielder Thulani Serero. Uncertainty, however, surrounds the remainder of their foreign four-player quota.

Nigerian striker Imoh Ezekiel only signed a one-season contract in October 2020 and Curacao winger Brandley Kuwas did not join a short-term loan from Al Nasr until January.

But all doubts about Keizer’s future have been erased in recent days. The coveted ex-Sporting Lisbon and Ajax boss has admitted he has received openings elsewhere with his stay, which was initially due to end this summer.

“Yes, but that’s not important now,” he replied when asked for other offers. “I’m happy to stay and that’s the most important thing now.”

The future also looks bright for Jazeera. An average age of 26.8 years in 2020/21, according to Wyscout, highlighted a side yet to reach their peak, with four players – including treble hero Ali Mabkhout – starting the UAE’s friendly 5-1 defeat to Jordan ahead of the much-delayed resumption of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup this week.

“Al Jazeera is famous for our academy,” Keizer said. “What you see now is that our team is a really good mix.

“We had two strangers, then two more came in. Then, of course, Ali [Khaseif] and Ali [Mabkhout].

“Then the young players who are already becoming experienced because they are 21 or 22 years old.

“These guys did a great job last season. They get better every year.

“I expect them to be better next year as well. Then behind there is [Abdulla] Ideas left-back, and a few even younger players who can show off in training camp.

“It’s very good for Al Jazeera. Oumar Traoré and [Mohammed] Rabii, too, there is a lot of potential at the club.

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