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What Zamalek need to return to stardom
It is no doubt that Zamalek are one of the best teams in African football history, but the club have not won a single trophy since 2008, aside from the bogus 2013 Egypt Cup. Egyptian giants Al Ahly, ENPPI, Haras El-Hodood and others withdrew from the competition before it began due to sponsoring conditions and the remaining opposition teams were not prepared, with most of them not playing since the 2012/2013 league season was cancelled. Also, the competition was being played in Gouna behind closed doors, without the presence of supporters.
Zamalek have not won the league title since the 2003-2004 season, following disappointing performances while changing technical team 16 times in the last 10 seasons. Moreover concerning the CAF Champions League, the club’s performances have been abysmal and they have failed to win Africa’s prize trophy since 2002.
The Whites have played three games in the 2013-2014 Egyptian Premier League season thus far. In the first match the team won 2-0 against Al Masry with a superb performance – especially from Omar Gaber who showed his real talent – but in the second game against coastal giants Ismaily, Zamalek fell 1-0 in Cairo to the frustration of the club’s supporters in an utterly disappointing display. The third game was against Tala’a El-Gaish and the team managed to win 1-0 with an average performance following a huge mistake from the military side’s goalkeeper.
Zamalek arguably had the best squad in Egypt before the league kicked-off, but suddenly things went from good to bad as Shikabala – who was the most effective player in the team for the last 10 years, decided to terminate his contract with the club due to financial issues in a shocking, and sad moment for the fans. Moreover, Ahmed Eid Abdel-Malek had a deal with the board of directors to be sent out on loan to Al Ahly Benghazi as the club are suffering from financial difficulties.
The team also lost five of their main players in the last summer due to the club’s failure to renew their contracts after they had expired. Ibrahim Salah signed for Al-Orouba of Saudi Arabia, Sabry Raheel signed for Zamalek’s rivals and Egyptian giants Al Ahly, Abdoulaye Cissé signed for Libyan side Al-Ittihad, Alexis Mendomo left for Al-Raed of Saudi Arabia and finally, Ahmed Hassan retired from football after joining the Egyptian national team technical staff.
Aside from adding Zamalek legend Abdel Halim Ali to the technical staff, manager Helmy Toulan signed six players in the summer transfer window: Ahmed Ali (striker) from Ismaily, Arafa El-Sayed (striker) from El-Gouna, Mostafa Fathy (winger) from Nibrouh, Yasser Ibrahim (centre-back) from El-Mansoura and finally Mohamed Abou-Gabal (goalkeeper) and Momen Zakaria (playmaker) from ENPPI, albeit the latter is on loan.
The six signings don’t look to have added anything to the team – let alone replace the departed stars – except for Ahmed Ali. Arafa El-Sayed, Yasser Ibrahim and Abou-Gabal have yet to play a competitive fixture, while Mostafa Fathy had a terrible game in his first appearance in the league against Ismaily. Momen Zakaria, who started all the Whites’ games this season, has showed some really disappointing performances each time he was on the pitch.
Currently, the regular starting XI for the club is: Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed (GK); Hazem Emam (RB), Mahmoud Fathalla (CB), Salah Soliman (CB), Mohamed Abdel-Shafy (LB); Nour El-Sayed (CM), Ahmed Tawfik (CM); Omar Gaber (RW), Momen Zakaria (AMF), Mohamed Ibrahim (LW) and Ahmed Gaafar (ST).
What Zamalek need:
1) Sign better players – No doubt the club are in need of some new signings in the current transfer window. Having just signed Omar Gamal on a free, the club are still in need for much better players to be able to compete this year. The team have been linked to a host of players and most of them would actually add to the side such as a left wing-back Ahmed Samir of El-Dakhleya, who would be cover for Abdel-Shafy, as well as a CMF like Hossam Hassan of Al-Masry, Abdullah El-Shahat of ENPPI or Amr El-Sulaya of Ismaily to replace Ahmed Tawfik. A winger or playmaker such as Ahmed Sabry of Haras El-Hodood, Ayman Hefny of Tala’a El-Gaish (currently on loan at Ahly Tripoli) would add much needed spark to the club’s attack.
2) Drop Ahmed Gaafar – Ahmed Ali showed glimpses of his talent scoring two goals in his first game in the cup and one exquisitely taken goal against Al Masry in the first game in the league after coming off the bench to put the fans on their toes. He looks to be what the club and their fans were missing upfront for years. Zamalek fans have witnessed numerous frustrating seasons with Ahmed Gafaar occupying that position in almost every game.
3) Solve the Shikabala issues – The ‘Apache’ is the key player of the team, the creator and the finisher. Shikabala is not only important technically but also mentally for the team.
4) Play the players in their original positions – Islam Awad, for example, showed a poor performance on the wing last week as he is very slow. Islam has a great talent which should be strictly used in central midfield, his original position from ENPPI. Also Hany Said, who plays under Toulan as a midfielder despite his passing skills being very poor, used to be perfect as a CB when he joined Zamalek from Al Masry.
5) Call up players from the youth team – Helmy Toulan should use the youth team to build a new squad consisting of experienced and young players. Zamalek have got a very talented crop of players in it’s youth system such as Ahmed Nasser, Mostafa Fathy, Khaled ‘Shikabala’, and Youssef Ibrahim.
6) Solve the Financial problems – The board of directors should be organized in the payment of salaries and dues, as this was one of the main reasons that some key players left the team.