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EXCLUSIVE | Former Egypt coach Bob Bradley: Elneny a great example of hard work, humility
American coach Bob Bradley was heavily involved in the development of many Egyptian stars during his tenure as national team head coach from 2011-2013, and witnessed the breakthroughs of Ahmed Hegazy, Ahmed El-Shennawy, Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Elneny, among others.
At the time, the quartet only had two international caps each to their names, due to caretaker coach Hany Ramzy’s decision to field the U-23 national team in the remaining 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers – a tournament that Egypt had already failed to qualify for – as his side prepared for the London 2012 Olympics.
Prior to Bradley, the Pharaohs strictly relied on the experience of veteran players for continental success – winning three successive Africa Cup of Nations under Hassan Shehata, with the 2010 squad having the highest average age per player in the tournament – approximately 28 years old. Bob Bradley’s assistant coach, Diaa El-Sayed, led the U-20 team to the knockout stage of the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia, which led to the integration of many young stars in the Pharaohs’ senior setup, such as the aforementioned quartet.
Of the many observers shocked at how quickly Mohamed Elneny has adapted in England with Premier League contenders Arsenal, Bradley was not one of them, telling KingFut: “When Neny started with us he was still young, only 19, but you could see that he had a good mentality and wanted to get better.
“Little by little he became an important part of our team. His passing and decision making got sharper. He started to improve his ability with long passes. He was always a player who didn’t hesitate to shoot from distance and at that time it wasn’t always that he was scoring a lot, but you could see all these starting points,” the current Le Havre manager added.
“I’ve always said that my friend Diaa [El-Sayed] deserves so much credit. Salah, Neny, Hegazy, Omar Gaber, Mohamed Ibrahim and Shennawy were all players that Diaa had with the 20’s. This was also the reason I brought in players like Ramy Rabia, Ahmed Samir, Saleh Gomaa and Kahraba after they had been with Rabia Yassin.
“Neny is a great example of hard work and humility. He continued to improve at Basel and has earned the opportunity at Arsenal. I know he will continue to rise just like Salah,” he added.
Years after Bradley’s departure, Egypt’s partnership in central defense is current Al Ahly duo Ahmed Hegazy and Ramy Rabia, a combination that the 58-year-old American coach had hoped to see more of during his time.
“I believed in the young talent in Egypt and remember telling Diaa early on that I wanted to see Hegazy and Rabia together in the center of the defense in training as much as possible to build for the future. Unfortunately injuries made that difficult.
“After the second Ghana game I told the players that I was sad that my time with them was over and that my dream of coaching [Mohamed Abou] Treika in Brazil would not happen. But I told them that I loved them. And believed in them. And that I was sure that our experience together would pay off.
“I still believe that and wish Hector Cuper and the players the best. My heart is with them all for these next two AFCON qualifiers vs Nigeria,” Bradley concluded.