Former Ahly midfielder Ahmed Hassan made the cross-town trip to arch rivals Zamalek after the Cairo giants announced on Tuesday that they signed him on a free transfer following protracted negotiations.
He becomes Zamalek’s first close-season acquisition as the success-starved club aim to end an Egyptian Premier League drought stretching back to 2004. They finished runners up to champions and bitter rivals Ahly last season.
“Zamalek have completed the signing of Egypt’s national team captain Ahmed Hassan on a two-year deal,” the White Knights said on their official website to quell reports which suggested that the deal might collapse due to financial differences.
“We settled all the financial matters with Hassan today following a meeting involving his agent Mohamed Shiha and club board members Abdullah George and Tarek Ghoneim as well as marketing director Ashraf Sobhy.”
Hassan moved to Zamalek after Ahly opted not to extend his deal, which expired at the end of last season. He was involved in a dispute with Ahly’s Portuguese coach Manuel Jose just prior to his departure.
The 36-year-old is also the first signing of Zamalek’s new coach Hassan Shehata, who shoulders the team’s hopes of turning around their fortunes after they finished a second successive season empty-handed, having won their last title in 2008 when they lifted the Egyptian Cup trophy.
Plenty of experience
Zamalek have long suffered from the lack of a central midfielder who can pull the strings from the middle, dictate tempo and orchestrate attack. Hassan can perfectly fit into that position, given his plenty of experience.
He returned to Egypt to join Ahly in the summer of 2008 after enjoying a successful European career, which included spells with Turkey’s Besiktas and Belgian giants Anderlecht.
He helped Ahly win three Egyptian Premier League titles and one CAF Champions League accolade.
On the international level, Hassan played a key role in Egypt’s African Cup of Nations triumphs in 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010. He was voted as the tournament’s best player in 2006 and 2010.
He recovered from a serious knee injury earlier this year and looked as lively as ever, producing his trademark energetic and spirited displays.
However, Ahly’s highly-successful manager Jose said he preferred to offload Hassan to inject fresh blood and build a team for the future.
Zamalek are also chasing another high-profile player in Hassan’s Egypt teammate Hosni Abd-Rabou, who is also available on a free transfer after his contract with coastal club Ismaily ran out.