Ehab Galal, the Guardiola-inspired coach who hopes to adopt his philosophy with Egypt

Karim Farouk , Wednesday 13 Apr 2022

Two years after being initially approached for the job, Ehab Galal finally took up Egypt's coaching role, having been deemed for some time the most likely to help the Pharaohs flourish.

Ehab Galal

Apparently realizing it was time to ditch Egypt's conservative tactics, the Egyptian FA needed less than two days after the departure of Carlos Queiroz to appoint Galal.

The 54-year-old was the front runner to take over the record seven-time African champions in 2019 following a disappointing Nations Cup campaign on home soil, but a deal did not materialize after the EFA had rejected some of his demands over his backroom staff.

Egypt then had spells with Hossam El Badry and veteran Portuguese Queiroz but could not fulfill their ultimate targets, having missed out on a Nations Cup triumph earlier this year before failing to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

Both have failed to deliver attractive football despite getting results at times. Galal now emerges as the likely candidate to turn on the style.

An elegant midfielder who orchestrated Ismaily's midfield back in the 80s and 90s, Galal kept his flair after moving to the touchline.

After some stints in lower divisions, he rose to fame with Maqassa (2014-2017), helping them finish second behind champions Ahly in 2017 for their best-ever position.

Under his guidance, Maqassa produced an entertaining brand of possession-based football, with even the goalkeeper having a role to play in the build-up, which was very uncommon in Egyptian football.

Galal, who models his schemes on that of Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, carved a reputation as a shrewd coach. It was only natural then that he takes the next step, having managed some of the Premier League's heavyweights including Ismaily, Masry and Zamalek.

A calm-mannered tactician, Galal supplements his technical know-how of modern football with academic studies.

"I attend seminars whenever it's possible. I traveled to the United States, Germany and England to meet with senior instructors, and I try to stay in touch with them," he said in a television interview.

Galal never loses his temper on the touchline, but that is not to be confused with his strong character and unyieldingness over his demands to take new jobs, which saw him turn down Egypt's offer three years ago.

Tactically, he prefers a 4-3-3 formation but he is not a big fan of numbers.

"4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 are all just numbers and different schemes. What really matters is what the players do on the pitch and how they move," he said.

"We rotate between all of these formations during a game. As I've said, what's important is what are the players doing and when."

Galal stays true to his own philosophy even if it sometimes proves costly.

When he took charge of a stuttering Zamalek side, his possession-based style backfired after his debut ended in a bitter 3-0 loss to arch rivals Ahly in January 2018.

In his most recent experience with the big-spending Pyramids FC, he was off to an excellent start of the season, with the likes of Ramadan Sobhi, Abdallah El Said, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and Fagrie Lakay finally living up to expectations.

The team moved joint top of the table and are favourites to win the Confederation Cup. The flip side of that coin was that they slumped to two disappointing defeats against title challengers Ahly and Zamalek, losing 3-0 3-2 respectively as his defence gave away possession easily in crucial areas.

"I believe we must always keep a good progression of the ball to create enough chances. It is a work in progress and the players are adapting, but it takes time to get there," Galal added.

Time is a luxury that he can hardly afford with Egypt, as his first task will begin in June when the team kick off their 2023 Nations Cup qualifying campaign.

But with Egyptian fans yearning for the kind of enterprising football the national team produced under Hassan Shehata more than a decade ago, Galal has a golden chance to prove his worth on the biggest stage.   

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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