Egypt coach Hossam El-Badry has hailed the impact of the Europe-based players in his squad, heaping praise on Liverpool star winger Mohamed Salah and describing him as the team's cornerstone and a role model for young people in Egypt and Africa.
"It's great to have a group of Egyptian players competing in the top European leagues. This certainly strengthens our squad. It's essential to see those stars play and continue to develop in a way that gives them new experiences," the coach said in the second part of his interview with FIFA that was published on Tuesday.
"This in turn is reflected in their performance with the national team. I hope to see more players go abroad to experience true professionalism. Training and consistent participation in games help players develop personally, technically and mentally," added El-Badry, who took charge last September following the sacking of Mexican coach Javier Aguirre.
Salah, the cornerstone
Salah has been Egypt's most instrumental player in the past few years, especially following his move to Liverpool in the summer of 2017. He shattered records with Liverpool, helping them to several titles including the prestigious European Champions League and Premier League.
On the international level, he helped Egypt reach the Africa Cup of Nations final in 2017 and played a pivotal role in leading them to a World Cup place the following year for the first time in almost three decades.
Despite acknowledging that Salah means a lot for the national team, El-Badry refuses to put too much burden on his shoulders.
“What Salah has achieved so far makes us so proud of him. He’s reached the highest level and has become an icon for Egyptians. It is no exaggeration to say he's considered a role model in the Arab World and Africa," the former Ahly coach explained.
"He's become the epitome of dreams, hard work and perseverance, and young people want to follow his path. I know very well that he likes challenges and that the national team is of the utmost importance to him.
"Salah has reached the highest level of professionalism and understands his rights and responsibilities. He’s the cornerstone of the national team and carries the hopes of all Egyptians.
"However, we shouldn’t overburden him. Football is a team sport that requires collective work. I like to make everyone’s responsibilities clear on the pitch. Every player has offensive and defensive duties and the success of one player influences the success of his team-mates. We all have to stand united for the national team."
Alongside Salah, Egypt were also lucky to see other players prove themselves in Europe, including West Bromwich defender Ahmed Hegazi and Aston Villa duo Ahmed Elmohamady and Mahmoud Trezeguet.
Striker Ahmed 'Kouka' Hassan has also won the Greek league with Olympiacos this season, although he is still finding it hard to convince El-Badry that he deserves to be Egypt's first-choice frontman.
"We follow all the players on a weekly basis and communicate with them to stay abreast of what’s going on. We try to support and motivate all the players," El-Badry said.
"We have Ahmed Hegazi playing currently for West Bromwich Albion, where he's been doing a great job since his return from injury. He has a professional mentality with a bright future ahead of him, and he’s an important player for our squad.
"We also have Trezeguet, who has improved a lot in the English Premier League compared to where he was in Turkey. He still has a long way to go, but he certainly has what it takes to play at an even higher level.
"We're also keeping an eye on Ahmed Elmohamady, Mohamed Elneny and Ahmed Hassan (a.k.a Kouka). All of them are important for us and we want the best from all of them to help us in the upcoming games.
"I speak with Kouka and always encourage him to work hard. He’s a very good striker and we have a shortage in this position. I want all the strikers to work hard in order to play for the national team. As I’ve said earlier, the door is open to any player who can prove himself worthy of wearing the Egypt shirt."
Coach's personality a key factor
El-Badry is tasked with rebuilding the team following an embarrassing African Nations Cup campaign last year, which saw Egypt exit the tournament at the last-16 stage on home soil following a 1-0 loss to South Africa.
Egypt made a slow start under El-Badry as they were held to draws by minnows Kenya and Comoros in their opening qualifying games of the Africa Cup of Nations last year.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has recently decided to postpone next year’s Nations Cup to 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
El-Badry believes that the coach's personality plays a key role in achieving success with his team.
"I believe that a coach’s personality contributes a lot to his success. It’s not only about winning trophies but earning the support of players and football officials. Even fans can get a grasp of the coach’s personality.
"Football has developed and made huge strides on the technical, physical, psychological, and administrative side. So much so that it’s become a science in itself.
"Coaching is a talent which practitioners must hone by acquiring new knowledge. That’s where the role of innovation and looking for new playing styles comes in. Successful coaches put in place a strategy and work to make it succeed by dealing with those around them in psychological and technical terms. So it’s very important for the coach to be efficient and charismatic.
"It's not easy to be shortlisted for the national team job. This role requires a lot of experience. I worked at Ahly for many years during which time I had to deal with lots of pressure and face many different styles and schools of African football.
"In addition to the successes I’ve had, I’ve learned a lot from that journey. Now, I want to prove that Egypt coaches are well qualified to hold the top job here and that they’re on a par with foreign coaches," he concluded.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sportsand on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)