Al-Ahram Weekly Online   1 - 7 February 2007
Issue No. 830
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

From team to team

The winter transfers of local soccer players heated up the cold weather, writes Ahmed Morsy

The top club in the country, Ahli, bought more players than any other after collecting millions of dollars as prize money from the African Champions League and their third-place finish at the World Cup in Japan.

One of Ahli's hot transfers was Anis Boujelbeni. Ahli signed the Tunisian midfielder from Sfaxien on a two-and-half year contract for $500.000.

The 29-year-old Boujelbeni, who can play on the left wing or in the heart of the midfield, was close to joining Zamalek but the player, who played against Ahli in the final of the African Champions League, said he worried about Zamalek's unstable finances.

He is expected to replace Gilberto, the Angolan winger, whose long-term Achilles injury has put his career in doubt

Boujelbeni said he preferred the Ahli offer over others he received from France's Montpellier and Saudi sides Ittifaq and Nasr.

"Joining Ahli isn't a surprise move. In January, anything can happen," said Boujelbeni, whose former club Sfaxien had an initial agreement with Zamalek over the player's contract.

"Ahli's offer was better than those of Montpellier, Ittifaq and Nasr. Besides, Ahli is a giant club that you can't turn down," the 29-year-old told reporters at a press conference in Cairo.

Boujelbeni is considered one of the most prominent figures in Tunisia's domestic football and was the hero of the southern city of Sfaxien when they reached the final of the African Champions League in November.

Ahli marketing director Adli El-Qayei said "some people" had tried to block Boujelbeni's deal or at least delay it but the club managed to seal the move.

Moreover, Ahli signed Petroleum Assiout striker Abdel-Hamid Hassan in a two-and-a-half year deal for LE500,000. The 34-year-old striker joined Petroleum Assiout from Enppi in the off season and scored two goals so far in the Egyptian league. Hassan's advanced age has been questioned but Ahli's head coach Manuel Jose claimed he had long admired the player when he was in Enppi.

The Egyptian title holders also signed Ahmed Adel from Olympic of Alexandria to a three-and-half year contract for LE1.5 million. The 23-year-old right back was close to joining Zamalek, who started talks with Adel in December. However, Ahli insisted on bringing back their former junior player despite having Islam Al-Shater and Ahmed Sedik in the same position.

Ahli also reached an agreement with Turkish side Konyaspor to sign their former striker Ahmed Belal in a deal which has seen Mohamed Abdullah going the opposite direction.

The Cairo giants said on their official website that they are set to finalise the deal before the close of the January transfer window. Ahli say they need not pay any fees to complete the signing of their former striker because Konyaspor owe them $300,000 since the initial transfer of Belal to the Turkish side in the summer of 2005.

In return, Ahli has sold right-back Abdullah, who has been out-of-favour since his arrival from Ismaili. He will join Konyaspor for $75,000. Goalkeeper Nader El-Sayed, who has remained on the bench for almost two years since joining Ahli in May 2005, joined Enppi on a permanent basis. Ahli had received two offers from Enppi and Ittihad of Alexandria but the 34-year-old goalie decided to join Cairo side Enppi.

Wa'el Riad joined the Austrian club Graz from Ahli. The Egyptian midfielder, 24 scored on his Graz AK debut as the Austrian side thrashed second division club Karntner 4-1 in a friendly a week ago.

Graz is eighth in the Austrian league table with 24 points.

Ahli have refused to let defender Wa'el Gomaa go for a professional career. In December, and with the approval of the club, Gomaa tried out for English Premiership side Blackburn Rovers but the deal fell through.

But when Qatari side Al-Rayan inquired about Gomaa, Ahli said he was not for sale, a decision the international said he respects. The 31-year-old defender played a key role in Ahli's winning both the Egyptian and African titles last season.

Zamalek announced the signing of Sfaxien defender Wissem El-Abdi in a two-year deal worth $400,000. Zamalek are in the process of renovating their defence which conceded 15 goals in 18 Egyptian League matches so far.

The club called off negotiations with Egyptian internationals, Turkey-based defenders Beshir El-Tabei and Abdel-Zaher El-Saqqa, due to their high financial demands.

National team star Amr Zaki admitted that he has not given up on his dream to move to the English Premiership although the Zamalek administration restated their stance rejecting any offer for the talented striker. Sheffield United made an initial bid of two million sterling for Zaki's services but Zamalek rejected the offer. The 24-year-old said that Zamalek coach Henri Michel has given him the green light to leave the Cairo side.

Zamalek defender Ibrahim Said joined Caykur Rizespor on a three-year contract for $300,000. The 27- year-old rebuffed rumors suggesting that Rizespor's Egyptian defender Beshir El-Tabei will join Zamalek as a part of the deal.

Since joining Zamalek from arch-rivals Ahli, Said failed to ditch the bad boy image which accompanied him throughout his career.

Said recently underwent a trial with Sheffield United but the Premiership side did not seek to acquire his services.

Ismaili bought Enyimba striker Atanda Sakibu on a three-and-a-half year deal for a fee of $150,000. A club source said that the 18-year-old prodigy will receive $50,000.

Sakibu is one of the most prominent strikers of two- time African champions Enyimba. He netted against Ahli during his side's 2-1 defeat in the African Champions League in 2005. Sakibu almost made a move to the Israeli league in January but a financial agreement could not be reached.

At the end of drawn-out negotiations between Sheffield United and Ismaili, Sheffield signed Ismaili winger Ahmed Fathi a three-and-half year contract for 700,000 (LE8 million), the Premiership club said.

"He has an eye for a pass, can score a few goals as well, although I'm not going to expect too much of him," Neil Warnock, Sheffield United coach said of Fathi, a 22-year-old international who can play either as a right-back or a midfielder, after the club's official announcement. "He's coming to the club at the right time. He'll be a good acquisition to the squad because we do need another midfielder."

Ismaili's club president Yehia El-Koumi sought to add a clause in the contract that deprives Sheffield of their right to sell Fathi without Ismaili's approval. He also set a condition that whenever the 22-year-old returns to Egypt he may not join Cairo giants Ahli or Zamalek.

Fathi became the third Egyptian footballer to feature in the English Premiership, following into the footsteps of Ahmed Hossam 'Mido' and Hossam Ghal i, both playing for Tottenham Hotspur.

Fathi made his first team debut in 2002 when he helped Ismaili win their third league title. He also helped Egypt win their fifth African Cup of Nations in January 2006 on home soil.

Egyptian striker Mohamed Zidan has completed a move to Mainz 05 club from Bundesliga leaders Werder Bremen. Zidan signed a three-and-half year contract that will see him receiving a reported 2.5 million euros.

"We are very pleased that the transfer has finally been completed," Mainz manager Christian Heidel told Mainz's official website. "I did not fight in such a way ever for a player, but this deal is well worth it," said Heidel.

"Zidan proved that he can help us escape relegation. He brings the enthusiasm and determination that we lacked in the first half of this season," the manager added.

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