Friday,20 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )
Friday,20 July, 2018
Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

The bad luck coach

Hector Cuper’s appointment as Egypt’s new football manager has not pleased everybody, reports Marawan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

After so much talk and too much speculation, the Egyptian Football Federation decided to appoint former Inter Milan and Valencia boss Hector Cuper as the new head coach of the Egyptian national team. The move is considered by many as being controversial, lacking reason. The Argentine has never managed inside Africa and does not have any experience with African football.

However, some other football experts think it’s a good decision as Cuper is considered a well-known name in football even though he didn’t win many titles in his long career in several continents.

Cuper managed 12 teams starting with Huracan in 1993 less than two years after he retired from playing. He moved to Lanus three years later before deciding to leave South America to Europe, taking over at Mallorca in Spain. He had a great time at the small Spanish club as he managed to take them to the final of the Spanish Cup in his very first season when he lost to Barcelona, and suffered a similar heartache the following season when he guided the club to the final of the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup but lost to Lazio. He at least managed to take revenge from Barcelona as he defeated them in the Super Cup to claim his first trophy as manager.

In addition to the Super Cup he led Mallorca to their highest ever position in La Liga as they finished third in the league which also meant qualification to the Champions League.

His huge success with a relatively small club like Mallorca saw several big clubs run after his signature as it seemed inevitable that he would leave the club, which he did, for Valencia. After losing two finals in his two seasons at Mallorca, Cuper surely hoped his bad luck in finals would change when he guided Valencia to the final of the Champions League in his first season as manager. However, his luck actually got worse as he lost two consecutive Champions League finals against Real Madrid in 2000 and in 2001 against Bayern Munich on penalties.

Cuper left Valencia to join Inter Milan in 2001 hoping to win his first major trophy in football apart from the Spanish Super Cup he won with Mallorca. However, two seasons in Italy saw Cuper finish third and second in addition to enduring an even more depressing time when he famously lost what could have been Inter Milan’s first league title since 1989. He lost the final league game of the season 4-2 against Lazio to hand the title to fierce rivals Juventus.

One couldn’t fault Cuper’s ability to take his team to the finish line of major trophies yet you couldn’t ignore his unprecedented bad luck that made the Italian media mock him by saying Cuper will never, ever win a trophy, though he might reach 40 more finals!

Six league games into the following season, Cuper was sacked as Inter were eighth in the league table and looked far from the team that nearly won the league the season before.  

After his sacking, Cuper took the rest of the season off to recharge his batteries. A year later he returned to Mallorca, then Real Betis, Parma, Georgia, Aris Thessaloniki, Racing Santander, Orduspor and finally Al Wasl of the UAE before taking over as Egypt’s new coach on 2 March 2015.

The decision wasn’t supported by some of Egypt’s soccer figures, including Ahmed Hossam, or Mido, who posted on his Instagram page: “Another new failure for the Egyptian Federation as they chose the new coach for the national team. Football in this country is managed by some ignorant people who know nothing about football” Mido wrote after the announcement was made. Mido later said that Cuper’s lack of knowledge about African football and lack of trophies in his long career makes the decision odd and clearly lacks any sense behind it.

Another drawback for Cuper is that the Argentine had a terrible relationship with arguably one of the best players in the history of football – the Brazilian great Ronaldo during his time at Inter. Ronaldo always said that Cuper was the main reason behind his decision to leave Inter as the Argentine coach played with defensive and boring approach that didn’t suit him. Ronaldo also said Cuper played him while he was injured on several occasions which resulted in the Brazilian’s poor physical condition during his time at Inter.

As for the deal itself, Cuper signed a three-year contract until the 2018 World Cup but the contract will be terminated immediately if the national team fails to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2017 which means that the main aim now for Cuper is to take Egypt to the African Cup after Egypt failed to qualify for three consecutive years. His monthly salary will be $65,000 and he’ll live in a hotel, not a rented apartment.

Bob Bradley, Egypt’s American manager from 2011 to 2013, said that the best coach in the world will find it impossible to succeed with the Egyptian federation which started a war of words between the two parties.

Cuper has yet to face the media but obviously he’ll be going for qualifications to both the African cup and the World Cup to avoid the sack.

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