HONGKONG (Reuters) – Marc Wilmots has left his role as coach of the Iran national team, just seven months after replacing Carlos Queiroz at the helm of the three-time Asian champions.
The former Belgium and Ivory Coast coach was appointed in May to lead Iran in their quest for a sixth World Cup appearance after Queiroz had secured back-to-back qualifications for the first time in the country’s history.
Iranian media reported on Wednesday that Wilmots had left the role and that a settlement had been agreed between the coach and the federation.
But while Wilmots confirmed he had terminated his contract with the Iranian federation, he denied a resolution had been reached.
“Contrary to the information apparently published in the Iranian press, no amicable agreement was reached between the Iranian Football Federation and me and my staff,” Wilmots said on Twitter.
“We are negotiating to find an amicable solution following the non-respect of the contractual obligations by the Iranian Football Federation and following my justified termination of the contract.
“The file being in the hands of my lawyers, I will not make any other comment.”
Speculation had been rife in Iran ahead of the country’s World Cup qualifier against Iraq in November that Wilmots would not lead the team into the game, only for the Belgian to appear on the bench for the clash in Amman. Iran lost to a stoppage-time goal from Alaa Abbas, with the result leaving them in third place in their qualifying group, five points behind leaders Iraq but having played one game fewer.
Branko Ivankovic, who led Iran to the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany and is currently the head coach of Tehran-based Persepolis, has been heavily linked with a return to the post.
Iran’s next World Cup qualifying match will be against Hong Kong at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on March 26.
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Peter Rutherford)