The football transfer market has been active as ever, reports Ahmed Morsy
As has become the norm, Ahli and Zamalek were ahead of the pack in signing new players in preparation for the new season of the Egyptian domestic league. The renovations included the coaching job in Zamalek. The club confirmed that German Reiner Hollman had become the new coach, succeeding Dutch tactician Ruud Krol after the club could not meet the Italian Alberto Zaccheroni's financial requirements.
Hollman, who had a spell with Zamalek's arch-rivals Ahli in the late 1990s, penned a one-year deal with the Egyptian Cup winners, although he originally arrived in Cairo to hold talks with Ismaili over their vacant managerial seat. Hollman will earn 30,000 euros a month. His first task will be to lead Zamalek in the highly anticipated clash against Ahli in the CAF Champions League on 20 July. Both sides will meet again in the Super Cup seven days later.
Hollman led Ahli to two successive Egyptian League titles in 1996 and 1997, after which he started a 10-year spell with Gulf clubs.
As for Zamalek captain Hazem Emam, he confirmed his retirement from football after weeks of speculation over his future. In the Egyptian Cup final against Enppi last month, Zamalek fans waved banners asking Emam to stay with the team. Players wore shirts on which were printed "No to Retirement" which left the veteran playmaker in tears.
Emam said he had been offered the post of the club's football director next season, but turned it down. He said a decision on what he will do next hasn't been taken. He has been approached by several television stations to work as a presenter and analyst.
Also in Zamalek, Wigan Athletic have sent a letter to Zamalek demanding the Cairo giants clarify whether they are willing to offload Amr Zaki. The Premiership side stated they were waiting for a response from Zamalek after meeting the latter's financial requirements to sell Egypt striker Zaki. Wigan will pay a loan fee of ¨1,250,000 plus 400,000 euros with an option to sign the player at the end of the loan period for an agreed transfer fee less than the amount already paid by Wigan to Zamalek. The English club also agreed to pay ¨500,000 to Zamalek if the player scores 10 Premier League goals for Wigan during the loan spell.
Zaki has demanded the Egyptian FA annul his contract with Zamalek after becoming increasingly frustrated at Zamalek's reluctance to let him join Wigan. Although Zamalek seemed to have agreed to let Zaki move on, the club's chairman Mamdouh Abbas was apparently reluctant to accept Wigan's offer. He said last month that the 25-year-old striker would not leave unless the club found his replacement. After targeting Ghanaian striker Junior Agogo, and Zamalek general manager Alaa Mekled revealing that Agogo joined the team on a four-year deal, the player's agent Mohamed Mansour denied his client had put pen-to-paper on a new deal with Zamalek.
But the 29-year old striker did complete a LE6 million move from Nottingham Forest to Zamalek that will earn him 350,000 euros a season.
"I am happy to be finally here. The move had been hampered several times but when we held face-to-face talks things went fast," Agogo said in the press conference. He added that what encouraged him to join Zamalek was the spirit that he found on the Egyptian team during its participation in the Africa Cup of Nations which the pharaohs won.
Agogo, who participated in Ghana 2008, netted 13 goals in 27 games last season.
Agogo is Zamalek's fifth signing at the close of the season following the arrival of Arab Contractors duo Alaa Kamal and Mahmoud Samir as well as Trabzonspor's Ayman Abdel-Aziz as well as free agent Al-Gaish defender Amr Adel.
Ismaili's talented sweeper Hani Said signed a three-year- contract with Ahli on Sunday night for LE2,800,000, more than a reported Zamalek deal worth LE1,900,000.
After Zamalek supposedly snapped up defender Amir Azmi on a free transfer, the player just as suddenly sealed a move to Turkish Super Lig side OFTAS Spor, who finished 11th in the league last season. Azmi, a former Zamalek star, said he was feeling under pressure since rejoining his old club.
Before his sudden departure, Azmi had put pen-to-paper on a four-year deal, Zamalek treasurer Yehia Helmi told the club's official website. "The player agreed to join us without even discussing any financial details because he was very happy to return to his club."
Azmi's return to Zamalek had ended a four-year spell in European football. He played for Greek side PAOK Saloniki, Saudi Arabia's Al-Shabab and Cypriot club Anorthosis Famagusta. The 25-year-old contributed to Anorthosis' league triumph. He left after his contract with the club expired.
Manuel Jose, regarded as the most successful coach in Ahli's history after guiding the club to a host of local and continental trophies, stressed his commitment to the Red Devils after being flattered by a link to Portugal. Rumours in Jose's homeland suggested that the former Sporting Lisbon manager is in line to take over at Portugal after the departure of Felipe Scolari to Chelsea.
While spending his annual vacation in Portugal, Jose expressed his pleasure to have been linked with the Portugal job, but insisted his commitment to Ahli was rock solid.
Ahli signed Palestine keeper Ramzi Saleh to compensate for the loss of Essam El-Hadari. In a bizarre response to Ahli's bid for Saleh, the Palestinian club Shbab Jbalia did not demand a specific fee to release their first-choice keeper. "The Palestinian side has told us we are free to pay whatever price to sign Saleh," Ahli said in a statement on their website.
Saleh is set to play second-fiddle to Amir Abdel-Hamid, who became Ahli's first-choice keeper following the abrupt departure of El-Hadari to Swiss side Sion FC.
Ahli signed strikers Hani El-Egeizi in February and Ahmed Hassan of Mehalla. In addition to the other Ahmed Hassan, the veteran midfielder and Egypt captain, the league champions garnered Qatar national team player Hussein Yasser Al-Mohamadi, Mansoura's right back Ahmed Ali as well as former Ismaili left back Sayed Moawad and Wadi Degla's right back Abdel-Hamid Ahmed.
Free agent Ahmed Adel signed a three-year deal with Ittihad. The former Olympic right back was released by Ahli after failing to establish himself in Jose's squad. Ittihad are also close to signing another right back, Ahmed Hossam, who was released by Zamalek.
Meanwhile Ahli left back Ahmed Shedid who joined Misri following a three-year deal. Shedid has failed to establish himself with Ahli since being promoted to the first team in 2006. He played reserve to Angolan winger Sebastiao Gilberto.
Islam El-Shater joined Haras Al-Hedoud on a one-year deal. "We agreed to terms and I signed the contract. I should join the pre-season camp very soon," said the former Ahli defender. The 31-year old was released by Ahli a few weeks ago and became a free agent.
The Arab Contractors signed Ahli's out-of-favour striker Reda El-Weeshi. "El-Weeshi was transferred to Arab Contractors but we inserted a clause allowing us to get him back after one year," Ahli's marketing manager Adli El-Qaeyi said. The former Egypt U-23 forward failed to prove his worth and couldn't find the net throughout the season.
Perennial league bridesmaids, Ismaili signed Nigerian striker Minusu Buba from the Arab Contractors for a three- year deal. The 23-year old striker lost his place in the Contractors' lineup to new signing Rami Rabie who finished on top of the club's scorers' chart. Ismaili also signed four other players: Misri defender Amr Bassiouni inked a five-year accord and Mohamed Eid was signed from Al-Gaish for the next three seasons. And Tamer Farag and Mohamed Ali 'Clay' were hired from Beni Sueif Telephones and Koroum respectively but the players were recruited for undisclosed fees. Omar Gamal signed a three-year extension to his contract that will keep him in Ismaili until 2011. The 25-year- old forward is set to earn LE1.2 million per season, as does teammate Hosni Abd-Rabou. Gamal, who helped Egypt clinch the Nations Cup trophy in February, had been heavily linked with Cairo giants Ahli and Zamalek.
Gamal put an end to speculation by signing a new deal after his current contract was set to expire in June 2009.
Although Ahli bought Abd-Rabou in July 2007, and the player signed a four-year contract, he later made a u-turn and moved to his former team Ismaili. Ahli sent official letters to the Egyptian Football Association, FIFA and European squad Strasbourg, in which Abd-Rabou played with last year, claiming their legal rights since Strasbourg and Ismaili reached an agreement after the Dervishes paid 300,000 euros in addition to the 500,000 euros paid last year to keep the player.
Ismaili have also reached an agreement with Turkish side Ankaragucu to sign Egyptian defender Ibrahim Said for $200,000. The 27-year old sweeper failed to settle in Turkey and had been linked with moves to Ahli and Zamalek.
Haras Al-Hedoud announced the signing of Tersana striker Ahmed Salama on a three-year deal for an undisclosed fee. Salama was Tersana's top scorer last season with six goals. He had a brief spell with Egypt during the pan-Arab Games in November 2007.
There were also movements among coaches. Tersana appointed Mohamed Salah, succeeding Farouk Gaafar. Gaafar has been in charge at Tersana since 2006 but failed to impress as the Hammers battled over the past couple of seasons just to stay in the top flight.
Salah was previously at the helm in Baladeyet Mehalla but could not lift them from the relegation zone.
Spinning Mehalla coach Mohamed Fayez resigned from his post, citing the club's limited financial resources. Consequently, Spinning Mehalla appointed Ibrahim Youssef as new coach.