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Ahly shake it up
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 11 - 2018

After the 3-0 drubbing in the final of the CAF Champions League to Esperance of Tunisia, Ahly of Egypt were looking to make amends in the Arab Club Championship. But they lost that too.
Contrary to all expectations, Ahly failed to secure a spot in the quarter-final of the championship against the UAE side Al-Wasl. The Egyptian giants were held to a 1-1 stalemate by Al-Wasl in the second leg after a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Cairo.
The result saw Ahly bow out of the competition, known officially as 18-19 Zayed Champions Cup. That failure, coupled with the African loss, were too much for the club which not surprisingly sacked French head coach Patrice Carteron as the first step in a major shake-up. The club also decided to relieve Michael Lindeman from his duties as head of physical training because the players did not play like they were in shape and had repeated injuries.
Following the disappointing performance by Ahly goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Shennawi in the last few months, the club also decided to axe goalkeeping coach Mustafa Kamal and appoint Tarek Suleiman once again.
Ahly deducted LE100,000 from each player after failing to progress to the quarter-finals of the Arab Club Championship.
Egyptian giants Ahly sacked Carteron just five months into his tenure despite leading the side to the final of the CAF Champions League.
Carteron led Ahly in 20 games across all competitions in this, his first season. He won 12, drew five and lost three.
Ahly appointed Carteron's assistant Mohamed Youssef until the club finds a permanent manager. Youssef led Ahly in 2013 when he managed to lift the CAF Champions League title against South African side Orlando Pirates as well as the CAF Super Cup.
He also managed Iraqi side Al-Shorta, and Egyptian Premier League clubs Smouha and Petrojet.
Ahly also announced that Sayed Abdel-Hafiz will return to the club as the new director of football. Abdel-Hafiz's first decision was to deduct LE100,000 from Ahly's captain Hossam Ashour. Ashour clashed with Moroccan referee Noureddine Jaafari after the final whistle in the Champions League and was sent off.
Carteron took Ahly to the final of the Champions League for the 12th time in the history of the club. They beat Esperance 3-1 at home but he failed to properly manage the second leg in Tunisia. And in less than two weeks he failed to secure a win for his club and was knocked out the Arab Championship as well.
Carteron shared responsibility for Ahly's current plight with the players and the board. Indeed, the French coach could not be fully blamed for the losses of the team.
Carteron was appointed coach with Ahly in fourth place in the African Champions League group stage with only one point, yet managed to finish top of the group stage to reach the semi-final, then the final.
Carteron was blamed for his defensive tactics in certain games. Also, he should take responsibility for not preparing the players physically or psychologically for the final clash against Esperance. After that, he failed one more time to get the best out of the players when they faced Al-Wasl at Azzah bin Zayed Stadium.
It was obvious that Carteron was unlucky when he was in charge. He lost the best players on the team in a very decisive period of the season. Carteron and Ahly had to play the last few months without key players. The Tunisian international left back Ali Maaloul was out for eight weeks while the Nigerian wing Junior Ajay has not played since July. Also the two starting centre backs Mohamed Naguib and Rami Rabia have yet to return from injury. And, recently Ahly lost Ahmed Fathi and Mohamed Hani again to injuries.
The players were also apparently exhausted from playing in too many tournaments at the same time: the Egyptian League and Cup, African Champions League, Arab Championship and the national team. No squad rotation and a depleted bench have taken their toll on the players. Even physical trainer Lindeman could not make a difference. This was Lindeman's second stint at Ahly, having worked before for the Reds during Dutchman Martin Jol's tenure. Lindeman had worked before at Tottenham Hotspur, the Polish national team, Hamburg, AFC Ajax and Fulham.
Ahly fans on social media were devastated by the twin losses and expressed as much. They all agreed that Ahly didn't deserve to go to the quarter-final of the Arab Champions Cup or win the CAF title.
It has become painfully obvious that several players in the current squad are not deserving of the red jersey of Egypt's most popular club.
Ahly's fans on social media are demanding a lot of changes in the squad. They all agreed that the club needs big signings in the winter transfer window.
Ahly announced that the next manager for the club will not be Egyptian, which squashes rumours about Ali Maher or Mokhtar Mokhtar taking over.
Ahly have decided to open their wallet for a foreign coach but are looking for certain qualifications. The club wants a manager who has a strong personality and is knowledgeable about African football. Securing the African title next year will be the board's first objective.
Moroccan Website Hespress said in a report that Frenchman Herve Renard is currently on Ahly's radar and that the Red Devils are preparing an attractive offer for the coach to leave the Atlas Lions. The report said the information was revealed by a source close to the club.
According to Hespress, Ahly are in talks with their main sponsor to secure a monthly salary of $120,000 for Renard, $40,000 more than his current salary with Morocco.
“Renard is on top of Ahly's list now, while the club is looking at resumes of three other coaches in parallel in case negotiations with the French coach fails,” the report added.
Ahly is reportedly willing to spend over LE200 million for transfers in the winter market window. Arab Contractor's Taher Mohamed Taher, Wadi Degla's midfielder Mohamed Mahmoud and Baher Al-Mohamadi, Ismaili's centre back, are on the list.
Ahly's sports director Haitham Orabi also said he was ready to land two superstar African players in the January-transfer window.
Ahly's former coach, the highly successful Manuel Jose of Portugal, could soon be named Ahly's technical adviser.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian-Saudi Super Cup between Ahly and Ittihad was postponed. The match was supposed to take place on 27 November at Borg Al-Arab Stadium in Alexandria. However, on Friday, the Saudi Football Federation announced that the game will be postponed indefinitely because of health concerns related to Ahly President Mahmoud Al-Khatib.
As of writing, Ahly's next game will be against Arab Contractors on Tuesday 27 November, their first league game in over a month.

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