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Ahly play it safe with Jose appointment

Ahly seemed set to appoint a promising coach but once Manuel Jose became an option, there was only a one choice to make

Hatem Maher, Sunday 2 Jan 2011
Manuel Jose
Jose helped Ahly win 19 titles

The Portuguese boss' return to Ahly was the perfect New Year gift for their ever-demanding supporters, who have been bemoaning his absence since he left the club in the summer of 2009 to take over at Angola.

"Finally, we can now breathe a sigh of relief," said one posting on internet fan forums while another said: "bring us trophies, Jose!"

Ahly's hunger for titles reached its pinnacle under the hugely-popular coach, under whom the Red Devils played in a league of their own for five successive seasons, brushing aside arch-rivals Zamalek to dominate domestic and African football.

His departure left a void which his successor Hossam El-Badry could not fill, prompting Ahly's supporters to consistently recall the glory days of Jose and pray for his return in more hope than expectation.

Ahly won the Egyptian Premier League title in their first season after Jose left but barely resembled the 64-year-old's fearsome team, which boasted a host of stars including Mohamed Abou-Treika, Mohamed Barakat and Emad Meteb.

Classy playmaker Abou-Treika and mercurial midfielder Barakat stayed put following the departure of Jose but suffered a notable dip in form that resulted in Ahly making a disappointing start to the 2010-2011 season.

"I'm only comfortable when I play under Jose or (Egypt coach) Hassan Shehata," said Abou-Treika, who became one of Ahly's greatest ever footballers after Jose recruited him in January 2004, after producing a string of below-par performances.

Ahly let Zamalek occupy the league summit at the halfway mark after slipping to fourth spot and were knocked out of the African Champions League, a competition they won three times in five years under Jose, after losing to Tunisia's Esperance in the semi final.

The club's board of directors started looking for alternatives after El-Badry handed in his resignation and some promising coaches were named as candidates to succeed him.

Portuguese Paulo Duarte and Frenchman Herve Renard looked frontrunners to take up the prestigious seat but everything went against them after Jose came out of the blue to steal the limelight.

Similar Challenge

Jose has returned to Ahly after struggling to win over the fans of Saudi giants Ittihad Jeddah, whom he managed for a brief and an unsuccessful spell.

He will face a challenge similar to the one he overcame in 2004 when he arrived in Cairo when Zamalek were the city's dominant side, winning two league titles on the trot and defeating Ahly three times in the process.

The several big-name signings he made paid off as Ahly regained their supremacy to enjoy a memorable five-year era.

Jose's new challenge, however, could be sterner.

Ahly can hardly expect to match the spending spree of 2004, given that the majority of the league's company-owned clubs seem no longer interested in offloading their prized assets due to their healthy financial position.

"My ultimate target would be building a new Ahly team that can be capable of winning titles," Jose said in an interview with the club's TV channel.

"We need new blood. We need to have a mixture of veterans, experienced players and youngsters."

Jose was criticized by local media during his previous tenures “for not relying much on Ahly's youth scheme.”

But he joins Ahly after they already began to promote some promising youngsters, including central midfielder Shehab Ahmed who has become one of the team's regular starters.

"It's not always possible to find an adequate number of good young players in the club's youth set-up, sometimes we can also look elsewhere," he commented.

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