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EXCLUSIVE | El-Nenny: We want people to know Basel are not an easy team
Following FC Basel’s promotion from their UEFA Champions League group, Egypt’s Mohamed El-Nenny speaks to KingFut.com about Liverpool’s elimination, the toughest player he’s faced and more.
Mohamed El-Nenny’s FC Basel were seeded in a tough Champions League group at the start of the season with European giants Real Madrid and Liverpool, but the Swiss champions managed to climb out of the group in second place with Liverpool having to settle for a Europa League spot.
Many ruled out Basel at the start of the campaign, expecting the Reds and Real Madrid to qualify, but El-Nenny believed Basel could challenge both clubs.
“A lot of people said this was an easy group for Madrid and Liverpool and that is a normal thing. I had hope that we would qualify. Being in the same group gave us, the players, an extra push to prove people wrong,” El-Nenny said to KingFut’s Marwan Ahmed.
“We wanted everyone to know that Basel were not an easy team and that we will not be pushed over by them and you have seen the way we performed at home when we lost 1-0 to Real Madrid and beat Liverpool.”
Following their qualification, Basel can face some of Europe’s top clubs such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund & Chelsea, but El-Nenny is not fazed by any of the top teams.
“It does not matter who we are drawn against. We proved to the world that we are a tough team and are up to the challenge.
“The round of 16 is always a tough round but it does not matter who we face, our main focus is to qualify to the quarter-finals.
With the possibility of facing Chelsea, El-Nenny could go up against former Basel teammate Mohamed Salah. Regarding this possibility, El-Nenny said: “Honestly I haven’t really given this prospect much thought, but as I told you, it does not matter who we face.”
“We have more experience against English teams as we’ve previously beaten Chelsea when Salah was here if you remember. Our luck has been higher against them.”
Salah’s position at Chelsea has been under the spotlight recently with much talk about a loan or permanent move from the London-based club. Regarding his future, El-Nenny said: “Let me tell you something, everyone keeps saying things but no one knows where the truth is but Salah.”
“The truth is not available to us but who knows maybe they are telling him that he’s an important player in the club and maybe they’re telling him that he needs to go.
“The only way to find out the truth is that if we have someone from inside the club tell us. Even when I talk to Salah, he tells me that he doesn’t know what his future may hold.
“When Salah left the team, people started focusing on me more. It is normal because people like to focus on players who score more but now they think I’m playing better although my performances have always been the same.
“He made me connect more with the team but now the focus is on me more,” said the 22-year-old.
There seems to be a change of style in El-Nenny’s game under Portuguese manager Paulo Sousa, with the player trying to go on goal more often, recording four shots against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
Regarding his new role, El-Nenny said: “The new manager Sousa changed my style. I’m a player that likes to press and he wants me to press more but at the same time he always tells me I have a good shot and wants me to try shooting more.”
“When I was in Egypt I would shoot the ball into the net but at Basel it is different. Some of my teammates make fun of me because most of my shots go high over the goal but nonetheless my role has changed a little bit.
“Against Liverpool it was the first time that I would play behind the strikers, something I have never done before.
“The best match regarding my personal performance, I would have to say against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, while I should’ve performed better against Ludogorets Razgrad in Bulgaria.
El-Nenny was seen taking a photo with Cristiano Ronaldo following Basel’s loss in Switzerland at the hands of Real Madrid and there was no other answer to who he thought was his toughest opponent in the group stages, saying: “Ronaldo.”
The Egyptian has been linked with a move away from the Swiss giants in the past but when asked which club was the one he dreamed of playing for, he said: “Barcelona.”