IN CAIRO, EGYPT
Clubs in the 18-team Egyptian Premier League have been on a signing frenzy during its one-month enforced recess for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Dozens of transfers have been reported as the clubs reinforce their squads ahead of the 2019-2020 season that is scheduled to start in September.
However, the 2018-2019 still has two or three round of matches remaining for the big two clubs before its conclusion with defending champions Al Ahly (74 points) and Zamalek (68 points with a game in hand) in the run in for the national title.
The two will meet in the Cairo derby - a possible league decider match - at Borg El-Arab Stadium on July 28. Al Ahly have set up residential training in Murcia, Spain while Zamalek are in camp in Cyprus to prepare for the season conclusion.
In fact, the reason the 2018-2019 season has not ended on schedule in May/June is because the Egyptian Football Federation reached a compromise with the top clubs to release their players for early Afcon preparation and be exempted from league action until the continental tournament ended.
The clubs, many already through with their 2018-2019 fixtures, have been active this transfer window enticing players in the Afcon.
Algeria forward Youcef Belaïli of Esperance confirmed in Egyptian media this week his club were in talks with Al Ahly over a possible move to the Cairo-based giants.
The 27-year-old forward has scored two goals here in Egypt, one against Senegal in the group stages and against Guinea in the quarter-finals.
Pyramids FC, lying second in the Premiership, announced the signing of league top scorer Ahmed Ali from Arab Contractors last Sunday. The 33-year-old forward featured for Pharaohs against South Africa in the round of 16.
Ismaily SC on Monday signed Namibia international Benson Shilongo on a permanent deal from rivals Smouha. Shilongo, 27, played two games for Namibia against South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire in the Cup of Nations.
Entag El-Harby completed the signing of Mauritania forward Amadou Niass from Lebanese side Zgharta on a three-year deal from. The 25-year-old featured for Mauritania in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers.
Zamalek have accepted a $4 million (Sh400 million) loan offer from Ittihad Jeddah for midfielder Tarek Hamed who featured for Egypt in this year’s Afcon.
And earlier on July 8, Uganda coach Sebastien Desabre was unveiled as new Pyramids manager. Questions had been asked about the Frenchman’s future immediately he landed in Egypt with Uganda Cranes as the rumour mill went into overdrive he would be joining Al Ahly.
There was also talk of Al Ahly being in negotiations with two-time Afcon winner Frenchman Herve Renard. The Egyptian club denied making any contact.
Al Ahly are currently coached by Uruguayan Martine Lasarte.
Meanwhile, former Gor Mahia and Tusker midfielder Khalid Aucho was also acquired by Egyptian Premier League outfit Misr El-Makkasa from Indian side Churchill Brothers after a good show in Afcon. He played in all Uganda Cranes matches on the way to a round of 16 exit.
A Kenyan, who did not feature in Afcon, has been traded here. Mathare United forward Cliff Nyakeya signed for FC Masr, a team formed in 2009. They gained promotion to the Egyptian top league last season.