Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1303, (14 - 20 July 2016)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1303, (14 - 20 July 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Ready to export

Europe’s top football clubs are hungry to sign up more promising talent from Egypt, Mohamed Abdel-Razek reports

Sobhi
Sobhi
Al-Ahram Weekly

Many years have passed since the Egyptian national football team had a squad full of players who play in European clubs. In the late 1990s and early 2000s Egypt had Hossam and Ibrahim Hassan playing in Switzerland, Hani Ramzi and Mohamed Emara in Germany, Nader Al-Sayed in Greece, Abdel-Satar Sabri in Portugal, Hazem Emam in Italy, Tarek Al-Said in Belgium, Abdel-Zaher Al-Saka and Ahmed Hassan in Turkey, and Mido in Holland. Today, only a handful of Egyptians play abroad.  It seems, though, that the old days are coming back, only better.

Thanks to Mohamed Salah in Roma and Mohamed Al-Neni of Arsenal, Egyptians are returning to Europe. The young double trouble duo started from ground zero, from the Egyptian club Arab Contractors to the Swiss side FC Basel. From there, Salah made it to England’s giants Chelsea then to the Italians in Fiorentina and Roma. The hard working Al-Neni went straight to the Gunners of London.

The road they took was similar to that of Mido who played for the world’s most prestigious clubs in the 2000s: Ajax, Olympique de Marseille, Celta Vigo, Roma, Tottenham and West Ham.

Bu there’s more than just Salah and Al-Neni. Zamalek’s winger Omar Gaber opened this summer’s transfer window with a move to FC Basel. Ahly’s gifted teenager Ramadan Sobhi, who has been a vital first team player for the Red Devils and the national team this season, is now, at just 19 years of age, on the shortlist of several European clubs, including Arsenal and Stoke City in England, and Roma and Udinese FC of Italy. According to Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafi, Ahly’s football director, Stoke City and Udinese were keen on signing Sobhi, making official bids to land the player for around €3 million. Finally, on Monday, the club announced that they have sealed a deal with Stoke City, to whom the player would move for €6 million.

After selling Gaber, Zamalek had hoped to export the hugely dangerous dribbler and marksman Mustafa Fathi. However, Zamalek President Mortada Mansour has made unrealistic demands, according to Fathi’s agent Ahmed Yehia, who confirmed that Zamaleked received an official inquiry from the Italian Serie A side Bologna FC. But, claims Yehia, the Italians heard “weird” numbers reaching €5 million, a massive sum for the 22-year-old who still needs to adapt to European grounds.

The dream of another of Zamalek’s prized stars, goalkeeper Ahmed Al-Shenawi, could come true. The 25-year-old has a chance to join English side Chelsea FC, fulfilling a wish to play in the English Premier League. A €3 million bid has been made, according to Britain’s daily tabloid The Sun. Al-Shenawi’s contract contains a transfer clause that says if he pays LE20 million he will be free to leave, a fact which would make his move relatively easy, if the reports are true.

The coming weeks will show whether the Egyptian team will be boosted by international players who could lead the squad to glory in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations and even better, the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

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