From Gattuso to Clement: How Al-Shabab Finally Settled on Igor Biscan as Their New Manager

Despite boasting a star-studded squad featuring Yannick Carrasco, Romain Saïss, Habib Diallo, and Gustavo Cuellár, Al-Shabb have struggled in the opening weeks of the season, prompting them to dismiss Marcel Keizer as manager and appoint Igor Biscan. The Croatian, who won the Champions League as a player with Liverpool, has solely coached in his homeland, apart from a season with Slovenian club Olimpija Ljubljana, but he has decided to make the move to Asia at 45 years of age, replacing interim manager Juan Brown, who had initially been working with the club’s youth structure.


Brown has already coached in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as he served as an assistant coach of his compatriot Ramon Diaz with Saudi giants Al-Hilal in 2016, before ending the season with The Blues as a first-team manager in 2018. After that season, he came to Al-Wehda for a similar role in the following season, which was to end the campaign with the club, then he left. He went to Argentina to be the assistant manager of the U20 national team. Then he went back to the Middle East, and more precisely Egypt, to take charge of the club Ismaily.


In fact, Brown has not done badly with Al-Shabab in the few games he has managed, he has even won all of his first three games with the club after a disastrous start of the season, as he has beaten Al-Fayha, and Al-Hazem in the Saudi Professional League and got his side the next round of the Saudi King’s Cup round of 16 against Al-Batin. Then, the Argentine gaffer had a tough mission, which was to play against local powerhouses and city rivals Al-Hilal, his former club, in their stadium in the Riyadh Derby.


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Al-Shabab have succeeded in keeping the game goalless and preventing their fellow capital side from unlocking the score until the 68th minute, as Senegal international star defender Kalidou Koulibaly was able to reach the ball first in the corner and hit the back of the net of South Korean goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu, before then the Serbian serial goalscorer Aleksandar Mitrovic scored in the 76th minute to end the game 2-0. Immediately after that, Brown had another away capital derby to play right away, even though it was way less hard than the previous one, as he had to play against newly-promoted side Al-Riyadh, and the game ended 2-2.


Brown has left the team ranking in the 12th position, with only 9 points collected in the total of 9 games, but he was responsible for snatching 7 points of it in 4 fixtures. Al-Shabab, led by their new President Mohamed Al-Munajam, were in the meantime looking for a new manager, disregarding the performances provided by Brown, who was most likely going to be replaced.


It was confirmed that one of the main files the new President came to work on, is the case of the managerial job. English legend John Terry, who admitted that he is set to serve in an administrative role in the club, was also said to be involved in targeting the right profile of the new coach. The Saudi White Lions have reportedly been negotiating with several managers, in view of acquiring their services.


Gennaro Gattuso was one of the most notable and closest coaches to fill in the aforementioned role, but he eventually opted to go to France and replace Spanish boss Marcelino in Ligue 1 giants Olympique de Marseille. The same goes for Belgian gaffer Philippe Clement, who has not taken any managerial mission since his departure from AS Monaco.


He was contacted by the representatives of Al-Shabab, and some reports even suggested that he land in the capital of Saudi Arabia to closely monitor the facilities of the club and discuss his vision and what he is looking for. But Clement ended up preferring to head into Great Britain and coach the Scottish giants Rangers.


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Now, the Saudi capital side has made the news official and signed a contract with Igor Biscan, the former manager of the historical Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb, who despite reaching the glory of both the local league and supercup, has still been dismissed, after failing to qualify to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. The coach has won 9 games of out the total of 16 at the lead of Dinamo Zagreb, but he has been knocked out by Greek capital club AEK Athens, losing the home game 1-2 and falling short in the away game drawing 2-2.


Dinamo was the fourth club Biscan has managed in his country, after NK Rudes, NK Olimpija and HNK Rijeka, and has also had experience as the coach of the U21 national team. He has taken charge of Al-Shabab, who have suffered one of their worst league starts in club history, and after getting off to a positive start with a 2-0 win against Al-Ta’ee, his side fell to a 2-1 loss at Abha. A brace from Yannick Carrasco would see them beat Al Fateh 2-1 in extra time in the King Cup of Champions, and Biscan will be counting on his Belgian winger as he looks to lead Al-Shabab to victory tomorrow against Al-Ittihad.



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