FEATURE: How Al Ahly’s new signings can help propel them to new levels
The recent acquisitions of Ramadan Sobhi and Hussein El-Shahat by Al Ahly could prove to be crucial in the Red Devils’ fight to reach the level of dominance in Egyptian and African football that fans had become so accustomed to.
Al Ahly began their domestic campaign on excellent form, winning three of their first four matches. But it was their outer-league play that proved to slow down the Red Devils. With deep runs in the Arab Club Championship and the CAF Champions League, Ahly were forced to play many games in quick succession or have their games postponed. At the time of writing, Ahly have only played 13 league games, while other teams have played as many as 19.
Because of the fixture congestion, Al Ahly began to drop points in the league. From September to the end of November, the Red Devils failed to win a single game in the league, earning only one point in three games. This same period saw Al Ahly lose in the second round of the Arab Club Championship to Al Wasl, an extremely disappointing resulting by the previous standards the club had set.
But what hurt Al Ahly and their fans the most was their capitulation in the final of the CAF Champions League. After winning the first leg 3-1, Ahly had all but confirmed that a ninth Champions League would be coming to Cairo. This was not the case however, as Ahly were embarrassed with a 3-0 loss to Esperance in Tunis to lose the tie on aggregate.
Since then, Al Ahly have picked up their form, going on a four game winning streak in the league and winning in the first round of the CAF Champions League against Jimma Kenema. But Patrice Carteron was not able to come out from the fire as Ahly’s coach, as he was fired and replaced by Uruguayan manager Martín Lasarte.
In addition to the signing of Lasarte, the Red Devils have gone on a transfer binge that has not been seen for many years by the Cairo club. The club signed 20-year-old midfielder Mohamed Mahmoud from Wadi Degla, left-back Mahmoud Wahid from Misr El-Makkasa and Angolan international Geraldo from CD 1º de Agosto. While these deals strengthened the club’s squad, the two blockbuster signings of Ramadan Sobhi and Hussein El-Shahat have the potential to propel Al-Ahly to new levels.
Although Ramadan Sobhi has been in poor form recently, it is likely that he will regain his old form at Ahly and set the league alight. Hussein El-Shahat on the other hand, who has been in excellent form since joining Emirati side Al Ain, is arguably the second best Egyptian right-winger behind Mohamed Salah.
Lasarte will lineup in a 4-2-3-1, with a star studded attack of Ramadan Sobhi at left winger, Hussein El-Shahat at right winger, either Walid Soliman or Junior Ajayi at CAM, and Walid Azaro at striker.
Al Ahly currently have an absurd amount of depth across the board compared to other teams in the Egyptian league and across Africa. This will help them when they will be forced to play multiple games in quick succession.
If Carteron can get this team firing on all cylinders, we might see an Ahly team that was as dominant as the Mohamed Abou-Treika led team of 2005.
The signings are not only significant for Ahly, but they could also change the way that Egyptian players approach transfers in the future. Both Ramadan and El-Shahat, who could have easily moved to European teams, chose to return to Egypt after stints abroad. Without looking at the context, many would consider their moves abroad failures, as they took one step forward and another step backwards. But this is not the case for either, both have the potential to play at an extremely high level, and it might prove to other young Egyptian players that moving to Europe is not the only option. Moreover, it could also show that returning to Egypt after stints abroad does not mean that the player failed.
What do you think of Ahly’s signings?
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