Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Taking Europe by storm

Shikabala is to don Figo's shirt in Sporting Lisbon. Ahmed Hamdi reports on the Egyptian's momentous transfer to the 18-times Portuguese League winner

Al-Ahram Weekly

In one of the most expensive transfers for an Egyptian player to a European club, Mahmoud Abdel-Razik, known as "Shikabala," has moved from Zamalek SC to Sporting Lisbon. The Portuguese club is one of three giants in the Iberian country alongside Porto and Benfica. Shikabala is not the first Egyptian to represent a leading Portuguese club. In 2000, Abdel-Sattar Sabri represented Benfica under the coaching of Jose Mourinho, who is currently coaching Chelsea where Mohamed Salah plays.

Shikabala will be the sixth Egyptian player to play in Portugal overall. The first was Magdi Abdel-Ghani in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Nearly a decade later came Sabri, who represented several clubs in a four-year run in Portugal. Almost another decade passed before Portuguese fans got to see yet another Egyptian player — Ahmed Hassan, known as "Koka," who currently plays for Rio Ave. Ali Ghazal followed him to Portugal a year later in 2013 to join Nacional Madeira. This year, the same team brought in another Egyptian, Saleh Gomaa.

The Black Leopard, as people call him, will wear the historic number seven in Sporting Lisbon. The same number was once worn by Portuguese and world football legend, Luis Figo. Figo Is a former golden ball winner who represented Sporting Lisbon early in his career before moving to weighty European clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan. Sporting Lisbon is also the team where Cristiano Ronaldo, current best player in the world and Real Madrid player, first shined and was then picked by Manchester United and later Real Madrid.

Shikabala will probably get a chance to show his mettle during the European tournaments next season as Sporting Lisbon now lies in second position in the league table, which qualifies them to the European Champions League.  For that to happen, Shikabala will have to put in strong performances to secure a position in the starting line-up of the Portuguese giants. The aptitudes Shikabala possesses that have led him to the biggest clubs in Europe are not in doubt, but skills are never the whole story when it comes to football. "Huge talent is also a source of problems," Manuel Jose, Ahli's former Portuguese coach, commenting on Shikabala’s transfer to Radio Renaissance. Jose said Shikabala can truly help Sporting Lisbon only "if he wants to."

The Portuguese coach pointed out that Shikabala has had disciplinary problems with the teams he previously played for. The one he called out was when Shikabala signed for both Ahli and Zamalek at the same time after he had returned from a two-year Greek experience at PAOK.  The former Zamalek star also had numerous problems while at the white castle. A case in point was when he once wrangled with his coach, then Hassan Shehata, after a call for substitution.  The incident resulted in loaning the player for a year to Emirati side Al-Wasl.

In the United Arab Emirates, the Egyptian winger did very well until he picked up an injury. He came back to Egypt to receive treatment at home, but did not return to his club at the designated time. The delay angered Al-Wasl's management, resulting in an end of Shikabala's loan six months before its completion. This act cost him half a season of his career, as he was not allowed to play for Zamalek before the next season started.

Fully aware of his controversial history, Sporting Lisbon has put a €45,000,000 buy-out clause in Shikabala’s contract to make sure the club is well protected from such actions. The buy-out clause is deemed huge considering that the entire contract is worth $514,000. Despite the pricey buy-out clause, Shikabala has expressed delight at playing for Sporting Lisbon. "It was a complicated deal, but what matters is that I am living a dream and that I am at one of Europe’s biggest clubs," Shikabala said on his new club's website after signing his contract.

Before signing, late disagreements between Zamalek and Sporting Lisbon's management had threatened to jeopardise the deal. The last few hours of the mid-season transfer period witnessed very intense negotiations between the two clubs throughout which Zamalek's management were stubborn. However, Shikabala had made it clear that if the deal did not fly, he would come back to Egypt but will not play football. A mere seven seconds before the transfer window closed, the problems between the clubs were solved and the deal was officially and dramatically sealed.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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