Evergreen El-Hadary still has European hopes

Hatem Maher , Sunday 1 May 2011

In an exclusive with Ahram Online, Egypt’s veteran keeper tells us his top form gives him hope for re-experiencing European football

Essam El-Hadary

Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary said on Sunday he was keen to re-experience European football before hanging up his gloves.

The 38-year-old, who is widely considered the best keeper in Egypt’s history, said age should not be a hindrance as long as he produces top-level performances.

“Age is not the factor that determines whether the player is good or not,” El-Hadary, who plays for Sudanese giants Al-Merreikh, said in a phone interview with Ahram Online.

“The professional attitude of a player can drive him forward and help him play at the top level until the 40s.

“Look at Manchester United keeper Edwin van der Saar for instance, he remains a very good keeper at the age of 40 and I don’t even think that he will retire at the end of the season.”

El-Hadary joined Al-Merreikh in the January transfer window after ending a brief and unsuccessful spell with Cairo giants Zamalek, where he was involved in several disputes with the club’s board of directors.

His displays remain as sturdy as ever and although he is pleased to be playing in Sudan, the former Ahly custodian said he did not lose hope of sealing a European move.

“I’m enjoying my time in the Sudanese league. I’m also grateful for Al-Merreikh and coach Hossam El-Badry for helping me settle in,” El-Hadary added.

“I believe I can play several more years at the top level. I want to play in Europe again - this is my aim.”

El-Hadary’s only spell in European football was with Swiss outfit Sion, whom he joined in a hugely-controversial move that dominated headlines for several months in 2008.

He violated his contract with Ahly, departing without their consent. El-Hadary was later hit with a hefty fine and a four-month suspension by world governing body, FIFA.

He spent one season with Sion and helped them win the Swiss Cup before returning to Egypt to play for coastal side, Ismaily.

“I can even remain in Europe following my retirement to work as a goalkeeping coach,” El-Hadary joked.

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