Egypt’s most successful club, Ahly, are in talks with several coaches, none of them Egyptian, to take over as manager following the sacking of Fathi Mabrouk.
Mabrouk succeeded Spanish coach Juan Carlos Garrido in May but failed to lead Ahly to any silverware and was sacked this week.
This is the first season that Ahly failed to secure any silverware since 2004 and the club is keen to attract the right manager to make amends in the coming season.
Ahly watched their fierce Cairo rivals Zamalek win both the Egyptian Premier League and the Egypt Cup and failed to defend their African Confederation Cup title, going out in the semi-finals to Orlando Pirates of South Africa on Sunday.
The club's head of youth development Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafy, known as Zizo, is taking the reigns temporarily ahead of the much anticipated Egypt Super Cup against Zamalek in mid-October.
The club’s board have confirmed that Mabrouk's successor will not be Egyptian.
Local and online media have seen four names including Marcos Paqueta, Felipe Scolari, Thomas Schaaf and Manuel Jose, who has previously led the club to success.
Ahly's Coach Abdel aziz abdel Shafy (Al-Ahram)
British coach Brendan Rogers was fired from his position at Liverpool on Monday but so far no reports have linked him the Ahly job. Rogers is known to be token and was deeply unsuccessful at the English club, winning nothing.
"Paqueta and Schaaf are among the candidates but frankly Manuel Jose is the best and strongest candidate, especially given his achievements and popularity among the fans," said caretaker Zizo on the club website. Zizo is involved in the process.
Georges Leekens has been ruled out, as has Santos Peseiro. Reports linking former Zamalek coach Jorvan Vieira appear unfounded.
"I am interested in working with a big club like Ahly but no deal has been reached as of yet with my agent Mohamed Farouk," Paqueta told a sports program on TEN TV Tuesday evening.
Born on 27 August 1958, Marcos Cesar Dias de Castro is a former Brazilian central midfielder who coached his national youth teams winning both the Under 17s World Championship and the Under 20s World Championship in 2003, but he has experience in Arab football too.
"I worked for a long time in the Arab region and I am familiar with footballing issues there," he said.
Paqueta started his career in the region coaching Al Shabab of Dubai in the late 1980s before a long time in charge of Dutch side Flamengo.
He returned to the region in 2004 to coach Saudi Al-Hilal, a year before managing the Saudi national team. He also spent two years managing Libya.
"I know Ahly well. It's a big club that combines outstanding players with perfect age average and their fans are numerous.”
Qatari clubs Al-Gharafa and Al-Rayyan and UAE's Al-Shabab are among the Arab clubs Paqueta.
"I have enough experience to solve Ahly's problems but I need two years to get to grips with everything about the players and the club," he concluded.
The 54-year-old German manager Thomas Schaaf, one of the favorites for the Ahly job, has been a one-club man, spending his entire career at Werder Bremen.
From 1972 to 2013, Schaaf has been at the German club, first playing as a defender then coaching youth teams from 1987. After two years as assistant to the senior manager finally took charge 1995.
Schaaf inspired Werder Bremen to win three DFB-Pokal titles, the Bundesliga in 2004, the DFB-Ligapokal and the DFL Super Cup. He also finished runner-up of the UEFA Cup in 2009.
Schaaf left Werder Bremen in 2014 to manage Eintracht Frankfurt but his spell there ended in May and he is a free agent.
Luiz Felipe Scolari
Luiz Felipe Scolari
"Scolari could be in Cairo mid-October to take charge of Ahly," said Sayed Abdel-Hafiz to reporters on Tuesday, who is odds-on to become director of football at Ahly.
Scolari, who led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup, has not publicly expressed interest in the position, and Abdel-Hafiz’s comments seem massively unlikely to materialize.
"Scorlari, the huge name in the coaching scene, is a favourite for the Ahly job," Abdel-Hafiz insists.
Luiz Felipe Scolari
Scolari has been at Guangzhou Evergrande since June. The Chinese Super League champions are reportedly paying him over €5 million a year – way beyond Ahly’s budget.
Scolari does have history in the Arab world. In 1984 he managed Saudi club Al-Shabab and since then has led the Saudi Al-Ahly, Kuwaiti Al Qadisiya and the Kuwait national team.
And… Manuel Jose
Manuel Jose Da Silva
Manuel Jose Da Silva, one of the most successful coaches in the Egyptian football history, is a candidate and has been endorsed by Zizo.
Jose led Ahly to a series of trophies during three spells, including six CAF Champions League title, four CAF Super Cups, six Egyptian Premier League titles, two Egyptian Cups and four Super Cups. He also led Ahly to finish third in the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup.
"I appreciate the fans calling for my return to Ahly but I haven't been called yet and that is what matters for now," Jose was quoted as saying on Egyptian Sports website Filgoal on Tuesday. Other reports suggest that he has already arrived in Cairo.
The 69-year-old led Ahly to the 2001 African Champions League title and an earth-shattering 6-1 victory over arch-rivals Zamalek in the Cairo derby but suddenly departed in the summer of 2002.
Ahly brought him back in January 2004 after enduring a barren run and he lived up to expectations by steering them to a host of titles, including five Egyptian Premier League triumphs and three Champions League accolades.
Jose left Ahly in the summer of 2009 after earning cult status among the faithful, managing Angola's national team at the African Cup of Nations before a brief and unsuccessful stint with Saudi giants Ittihad Jeddah before returning to Ahly in the summer of 2011.
"Leaving Ahly was the hardest decision of my life but I won't return to coach Ahly again although the time I spent with the team was very happy," Jose said in May 2012 after leaving Egyptian football after the Port Said stadium disaster that kileed 72 Ahly fans injured hundreds. Jose was managing the team in a match against Masry that day.
The next 24 hours should bring confirmation of who the new Ahly manager will be.
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