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Mahmoud Trezeguet: Developing away from the spotlight
On November 13th 2016, Egypt ousted Ghana to ensure their status as top of their group in World Cup qualifying, but it was one player who stole the spotlight, following his extremely unexpected performance: Royal Mouscron’s Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet’.
Before I fully delve into the feature, there’s one thing circulating that we need to settle. For starters, don’t let the media fool you into thinking Trezeguet is slowly developing from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan – because, newsflash: he isn’t. If anything, he’s the complete antithesis of the aforementioned statement. Trezeguet was never an ugly duckling, he was tipped for greatness by the time he was almost 18 years old when he first trained with the first team under legendary coach Manuel Jose, who later told Trezgeuet that “he’ll be the best player in Egypt”. Now, to put this into context, Jose wasn’t a man to grant any youngster a chance to play for the Ahly first team unless he showed immense potential – winning (and only winning) was the number one priority. In Jose’s three tenures at Al Ahly, he instilled his faith in three youth players bar Trezeguet: Hossam Ghaly, Hossam Ashour, and Emad Meteb.
The remarkable thing however is Trezeguet’s work ethic, and how he almost always manages to reach his target one way or another, without a fear of change. When he started occupying the left wing role in Hector Cuper’s 4-2-3-1 formation, everyone – and I mean everyone – thought it was only a matter of time before he gets demoted to the bench, especially when his closest competition is ex-Al Ahly teammate and Stoke City wonderkid Ramadan Sobhi. But, instilling himself in the Egyptian national team’s line-up isn’t a one-off situation – in fact, Trezeguet’s presence in the Al Ahly first team as a mere 18-year-old in itself was unanticipated. According to the player, Al Ahly’s director of football Sayed Abdelhafiz phoned then club U-20 coach Aly Maher to ask him about a defensive midfielder he had in his squad, and whether he’ll be available to train with the first team, or not. Turns out, however, that the player was on national team duty, and Rabei Yassin (who was coaching the U-20s back then) refused to let go of the player to allow him to train with the first team. It was ‘only’ then Trezeguet got his big break – as he was called up to the Al Ahly first team in place of the unnamed defensive midfielder. Now, most of the readers may not remember, but yes – Trezeguet started his career off as a midfielder capable of playing in defensive midfield, and in behind the strikers.
“Usually, players get promoted to the first team to get a taste of the atmosphere over there and then resume playing for the youth team once again, but I told myself it’s now or never, either I prove myself and play with the big names or I’ll probably end up somewhere else.”
It was then Trezeguet started announcing himself to the Egyptian football fan, even more so when a large portion of Al Ahly’s golden generation hung up their boots circa 2013. Now, I could go on forever to speak about the young Trezeguet’s evolution, but my focus here is how Trezeguet managed to pick himself up following the 2014/15 season, and how he kickstarted his career elsewhere, away from the spotlight. The youngster was basically carrying a very poor Al Ahly squad under Juan Carlos Garrido in the first half of the season – he basically made the left-wing his – but as results worsened, the pressure increased, and Trezeguet found himself the subject of severe criticism from some Al Ahly fans.
It was then, Trezzy decided to move on at that point – going out on loan to Belgian giants Anderlecht for a fee of £850,000.
Now, despite only making eight appearances during the entire 2015/2016 season, the transfer – which initially moved him away from the spotlight of Al Ahly – drew him closer to the Pharaohs. First of all, Cuper likes to give foreign-based players runs in the side, and second of all, Trezeguet didn’t risk the chance of playing second fiddle to Ramadan Sobhi at Al Ahly, which could’ve ended his chances of a national team spot for good. Trezzy could’ve also returned to Al Ahly, or moved to the Gulf following the 2015/16 season, like Mahmoud Kahraba and Ahmed Hamoudi before him but he didn’t. Anderlecht made the deal permanent and by the start of the current season he was on the move once again to Royal Mouscron, a side that’s practically only been around since 2010, and in the top flight since 2015/16.
Change? No Problem.
Trezzy has scored four goals and made three assists since moving to Mouscron, including a wonder goal against Genk in mid-October, and he’s also a priceless asset to Hector Cuper’s set-up. Thing is, Trezeguet always had the talent, but he had to develop it. When it looked like he was going to get phased out at Al Ahly, he made an abrupt change of direction before it was too late. This sort of highlights Trezeguet’s mentality. He’s a player who does his utmost to reach his target, but just like his playing style, he wouldn’t continue in a path where there are severe dangers to his career, whether it’s a side-step or a backwards step, it doesn’t matter to him, as long as he’s developing. A move to Mouscron, for example, is helping him shine, as opposed to if he stayed at Anderlecht playing for the youth team. The same goes for his Al Ahly stint – he spent 13 years at the club, but what if he stayed put before getting loaned out to a mid-table side? Truth is, Al Ahly and Zamalek are two awfully successful clubs where only the fittest survive. How many players endured below average careers following their stints over there? The answer is a lot.
Trezeguet is a player who shifted from central midfield to left wing, a player who moved from his boyhood club to a Belgian side where his chances of playing were limited, before changing colours once more to move to Mouscron.
It’s these sort of changes that make you admire Trezeguet. He makes the move which is best for his development, even if it’s away from the spotlight, or something as severe as changing your position nearly one year one from getting promoted to the first team. In short, Trezeguet is an underrated example of professionalism, and we should highlight that.