Just over a week after guiding Saudi Arabia to a fifth World Cup, Bert van Marwijk has been replaced as head coach by Edgardo Bauza.
In a shock move, Argentina’s Bauza leaves his post in charge of United Arab Emirates to make the short trip to occupy the hot seat in Riyadh only nine months ahead of Russia 2018.
Van Marwijk, who took his native Netherlands to the final of the 2010 tournament, was appointed in August 2015 and sealed a place in Russia 2018 on Sept. 5 with a 1-0 home win over Japan that forced Asian champions Australia into the playoffs.
The 65-year-old moves on, despite the fact that he took the Saudis to a first World Cup since 2006, with the highest winning rate — 65 percent — in the national team’s history. But negotiations over a new contract with the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) broke down.
“Bauza will lead the Saudi team in the next period that includes participation in World Cup 2018 in Russia and the stages of preparation that precede the [finals],” the SAFF, who have hailed the move as an example of regional co-operation, announced on social media.
According to reports in Riyadh, the organisation wanted to replace some members of the Dutchman’s coaching team. They also requested that Van Marwijk spend more time in the country to keep a close eye on the players in the run-up to the tournament.
In his two years in the job, Van Marwijk tended to delegate domestic duties to his staff.
“I ended the negotiations,” Van Marwijk told Dutch broadcaster NOS. “Last week, after qualifying for the World Cup, a number of people were sacked from my staff, which I think is unacceptable.
“I now hear from the media that there is a successor. So now I know it’s over.
“I’m not going to negotiate about that [moving to Saudi Arabia]. I don’t want to live there permanently. They think it’s incomprehensible that I had to leave. They really wanted to go to Russia with me.
“I would like to go to the World Cup, because that’s why I started this job two years ago. But I will not let anyone tell me how to do my job.”
On Aug. 31, U.A.E. defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier to give them a first competitive win under Bauza, who was appointed in May.
The former head coach of Argentina, fired by the two-time World champions in April after just eight months in the job, will now go to the World Cup with Saudi Arabia.
Bauza becomes the third Argentine to take the Saudi reins after Jorge Solari and Gabriel Calderon, who led Saudi Arabia to the 2006 World Cup only to be replaced before the tournament started
John Duerden covers Asian football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.