OPINION | The winners & losers from the Abdallah El-Said saga
The El-Said saga will indeed never be forgotten. After all, Egyptian fans are the most sentimental fans there is and barely forget a star’s action of betrayal to their beloved teams and in Abdallah’s case, he did indeed made up his mind to switch from Red to White, before realising he had stepped into the unknown, at least for him.
The 32-year-old wouldn’t have been the only player to do it, the world’s most capped player in history, Ahmed Hassan, once made the same decision. One of Africa’s greatest strikers, Hossam Hassan, did the same as well but unlike El-Said, both players went through with the decision and represented the club.
Many fans would say Abdallah El-Said’s career in Egypt is finished and rightly so, he made his demands clear to the club before renewal: 25,000,000 EGP per season. Such a huge salary was never going to cross anyone’s mind a few years ago. Step in Saudi tycoon Turki Al-Sheikh, who facilitated the departure of numerous players to Saudi Arabia, where they’d make one or two years’ salary in Egypt in just a few months in the Gulf.
It was an opportunity for Abdallah El-Said, he ran down his contract and took this chance by the scruff of the neck. Can you blame him? He knows he’s one of the best playmakers on the continent and arguably the Egyptian national team’s most important player after Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah. There is no shadow of doubt that 99.99% of players in Egypt would’ve taken a similar decision to El-Said if they knew they’d get their way to 25 million Egyptian Pounds a year.
What El-Said did can be called many things, but naivety isn’t one.. As many Egyptian fans are now against him, Al Ahly fans feel betrayed and don’t want him to wear the shirt again, which is what’s most probably going to happen; Zamalek fans are against him as well as they feel he has used them for personal gain. One thing we can be sure of, Abdallah did what’s best for the future of his family. He’s all set now having taken 40 million Egyptian Pounds in cash. How many 32-year-olds can make the same amount in Egypt? None. His time is going to end soon and he knows it.
Al Ahly fans believe El-Said ended himself, the club ‘taught him a lesson’ as they may say but here’s why the repercussions of the board’s decision to sign him again was a mistake.
Letting your best player go is never easy, let alone to your everlasting rival. But at 32, you’d have to think how many years does he have to give at top level? Is it worth raising your expenses, not now but for the future as well? Was El-Said going to really affect the outcome of football in Egypt by joining Zamalek and tip the odds to Mit Okba? I believe not. It was not worth the hassle and they club might find themselves in deeper issues in the future.
Zamalek made a mistake by not registering the contract the next day El-Said signed. It is of no question that they were naive in the situation and could’ve gone to the Egypt FA to register the contract. A mistake, yes, but now they find in their hands a bargaining chip; four contracts, a release form signed by the player and the ability to use Turki Al-Sheikh to achieve financial gain.
Let’s be clear here, El-Said was not naive when signing the contract back in February, a very important note to mention was that he dated it to 30th of March, 2018. Did he want to reveal the decision after the international break? Possibly. Or was he keeping the door open to extend his contract for Al Ahly? Also a bigger possibility.
Financially, Al Ahly know they will not be paying back the 40 million El-Said received from Zamalek, it would definitely be their honorary president from the Gulf to make up with Mortada Mansour. But what they might’ve caused and I am sure will happen is raising their expenses over the coming few years.
As players’ demands increase all around the world, it would’ve happened in Egypt as well but by paying El-Said around 50 million in 24 months, players now know the road to riches. What could prevent the players from running down their contracts to cash in? If we look at the players at Al Ahly, the backbone of the team, players like Rami Rabia, Saad Samir, Amr El-Sulaya, Junior Ajayi, Ahmed Hamoudi & Mohamed Naguib; they all have one thing in common. Their contracts end in 2020. They now know the way to get more and as they say patience is a virtue, these players now know that by being patient they can secure their futures as well.
Their next task though will be next summer when they try to renew Momen Zakaria’s contract before potentially sending him back on loan to Saudi Arabia. The former Zamalek-man’s contract ends in the summer of 2019.
Football is like any other profession, the players play to achieve more financially. The players now know who to negotiate with, not the board but Turki Al-Sheikh. It was astonishing to hear that someone like Sayed Abdel-Hafiz was never involved in the final turnaround of El-Said. Al-Sheikh had to arrive in Egypt to finalize it. What prevents the players now to ask to negotiate with Turki Al-Sheikh once Al Ahly’s board approach them for contract renewals? Nothing.
Another issue is Adli El-Keiy revealing live on TV that they knew El-Said signed for Zamalek before beating them to the renewal and registering the contract, hence putting more pressure on El-Said and the Egypt FA to act legally. In theory, players will now know that Al Ahly might cross you over if you don’t go their way just like they did with Abdallah.
After El-Keiy’s comments we look at a bigger issue. Isn’t signing a player that had already signed for another club sanction-able by FIFA? It sure is and may put Al Ahly in jeopardy of a transfer ban for two windows. In principal, this is applicable if Zamalek decide to escalate the issue but I have no doubt that it will not reach that level. Mortada Mansour’s gain is now not to deprive Al Ahly from signing players, but to pull the carpet from under Turki Al-Sheikh’s feet, and I have no doubt that will be his main focus for months to come. The ‘war of words’ has already started between the two and it will only get more fierce.
So who is the winner and who is the loser from this issue? There no announcement of a clear winner from this situation as their simply is none. Abdallah won the money but lost the fans and hurt his legacy & image. He is also in risk of a sanction for signing for two clubs at the same time. Al Ahly won their war against Zamalek by preventing the departure of a player of El-Said’s caliber from joining the club but lost the money, the idea that players would never choose Zamalek over them despite all the hardships they’re going through. They will continue to lose financially with players now opting for more money after Abdallah paved the way to the goldmine that is Turki Al-Sheikh and they put themselves in jeopardy of a FIFA sanction. It must be said that they’re expecting short-term financial gain from El-Said’s imminent departure to Saudi Arabia.
Zamalek lost their ‘signing of the century’, a chance to get one over Al Ahly but won the case of proving that money can buy anyone, even if from Al Ahly. They made their mark that the old days of players preferring Al Ahly over Zamalek was the rule, they ended the career of their rival’s best player at the club.
The only winner from this situation in my modest opinion is Turki Al-Sheikh. People now acknowledge that he controls football in Egypt, at least for the near future. The riddle remains though, what if he has a fall-out with the Al Ahly board? Where would that set the club. Kharafy and Mansour were financiers of Al Ahly over the past during the Hassan Hamdi days. It was never a secret, but with Turki Al-Sheikh they have put all their eggs in one basket, in the hands of a man who has shown volatility in reactions. Al Ahly have always been about stability, but will that remain the case in the presence of Turki Al-Sheikh?