The search for Egypt’s new manager is in full-swing, but just how close are the Pharaohs to finding Héctor Cúper’s successor?
How we got here
Cúper’s contract expired when Egypt’s 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign ended, namely with three defeats including a suspicious loss to Saudi Arabia, in which the Green Falcons were awarded two dubious penalties by controversial Colombian referee Wilmar Roldán.
Yes, that Wilmar Roldán.
But controversy or not, Egypt played ineffective, unattractive football during Cúper’s final months in charge, including against Saudi Arabia.
In fact, many would say his approach was unattractive throughout his three-year tenure at the Pharaohs’ helm, but at least he had results to show for it.
However, Egypt’s trip to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final and first World Cup finals appearance in 28 years quickly morphed into futility.
Namely, the team’s longest winless streak ever, tied with a nine-match run without a win back in 1983.
Egypt can break that record if it fails to beat Niger at home in this September’s 2019 AFCON qualifier.
What we know for sure
The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) has made it clear on more than one occasion since Cúper’s departure that it would prefer the next manager to be a foreigner.
The EFA has historically shown a reluctance to pay top-dollar for coaches, but opened up their wallets – to a degree – for the first time ever with Cúper’s hiring back in 2015.
However, comments made by the EFA suggest they may not be willing to dole out much cash for their new coach.
Specifically, the EFA’s Karam Kurdi said they would like the new manager to be “financially convenient.”
He added that they would prefer someone with experience coaching national teams, particular in Africa, and that they be on the younger side.
The “foreigner” prerequisite may be due to the fact that there are no obvious Egyptian candidates, with the top domestic names being El-Masry’s Hossam Hassan and former Al Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry.
So to summarize, the EFA wants Egypt’s next manager to be: foreign, experienced with national teams, experienced within Africa, “financially convenient,” and young.
Candidates mentioned in the media
Hervé Renard – Renard is under contract as Morocco boss until 2022, but there are rumblings that he isn’t entirely happy with the Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF).
Renard is likely to stay if certain conditions are met, although he denies even having any.
But it’s no secret the EFA are interested and watching the situation closely.
EFA president Hany Abou Rida says they haven’t approached Renard just yet “out of respect for Morocco.”
Renard meets the EFA’s stipulations of being young, foreign, and experienced with African national teams.
Renard is the only manager to ever win AFCON with two different nations; Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015.
The 49-year-old Frenchman made his name as a fitness coach, later adding tactical prowess to his repertoire.
His Atlas Lions impressed at the ongoing World Cup in Russia, standing toe-to-toe with all comers despite only earning a point.
Renard is also drawing strong interest from Algeria, according to various media.
Carlos Queiroz – The Portuguese manager is no spring chicken, but he’s also no stranger to success and Africa.
Egyptian website Youm7 cited sources saying Queiroz on the EFA’s radar.
He’s had a very successful seven-year stint as Iran manager, catapulting Team Melli to the top-ranked spot in Asia, a more-than-respectable four-point showing in Group B of the 2018 World Cup, two World Cup qualifications in-a-row for the first time in the country’s history, a suffocating defense that didn’t allow a single goal in the final round of World Cup qualifying until the final match, and an aggressive, organized approach that has made him a fan favorite in the West Asian nation.
There’s no doubt Queiroz, a consistent winner, is more than qualified, possibly the most qualified of anyone being considered.
However, he’s also the highest-paid of any candidate mentioned.
Queiroz earns over $2 million per year coaching Iran and will be pushing 70 years old by the Qatar 2022 World Cup. If he isn’t a little old for the EFA’s taste, he’s more than likely too expensive for it.
To boot, Iran has made very public their interest in retaining the 65-year-old through the 2019 AFC Asian Nations Cup.
His current contract runs out at the end of this month, but he acknowledges being offered an extension.
According to several reports out of Iran, however, Queiroz has yet to sign the offer and is still considering other options.
Iranian media reports that Queiroz already turned down an offer from Cameroon, and has drawn interest from both South Africa and Algeria.
Vahid Halilhodžić – The ex-Japan and Algeria boss, often maligned for a conservative approach that should not be mistaken as similar to Cúper’s, is drawing very heavy interest from Algeria.
Despite Algerian fans clamoring for his return, he’s also on the Pharaohs radar according to reports, largely due to the success he had with the Fennecs at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The 66-year-old is known for his pragmatism, but values quick, aggressive counter-attacking not unlike Queiroz.
Halilhodžić was surprisingly released as Japan manager just two months before the 2018 World Cup, despite successfully guiding the team to the finals.
The Japanese Football Federation cited Halilhodžić’s tactical approach as the reason for his firing, saying they preferred a more possession-based, short-passing, “Japanese style” of play.
The Bosnian manager is most likely to end-up back in charge of Algeria soon.
Martin van Marwijk – One of only three managers that are actually free agents among those being mentioned in the media, van Marwijk’s Australia had a respectable showing in Russia though it could only muster a single point.
The 66-year-old Dutchman guided Saudi Arabia to the World Cup before being infamously let go over job demands.
Van Marwijk wanted to live abroad and only visit Saudi Arabia for national team camps and matches.
If he holds onto the same demands, it’s unlikely the EFA will give him much consideration, especially at the price tag he’d command.
Van Marwijk has no previous African experience, though he did guide the Netherlands to the final of the 2010 World Cup, losing to Spain.
Though tactically balanced, he’s probably the most attack-minded of those mentioned, relying on a strong midfield, possession build-up and interplay.
Luiz Felipe Scolari – The latest name making the rounds in Egyptian media is that of the 69-year-old ex-Brazil manager.
Affectionately known as “Big Phil,” Scolari is currently a free agent after guiding China’s Guangzhou Evergrande to three straight domestic league titles and the 2015 Asian Champions League crown.
His tactical approach is balanced, but can grow static and predictable over time.
Scolari is organized and intimidating, and keeps his players on the straight and narrow.
A Brazilian of Italian descent, Scolari is also known for being at the helm in Brazil’s nightmarish 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals on home soil.
Scolari was linked with the South Korean post recently, but the South Korean Football Association officially rubbished those rumors on Wednesday.
It’s hard to imagine Scolari being hired given he isn’t young, cheap, or experienced with African football.
Gernot Rohr – The German who guided Nigeria to this year’s World Cup was said to have turned down an offer from Egypt even though he’s still officially coaching the Super Eagles.
We find the news a bit dubious given its source and circumstances, so we wouldn’t pay Rohr much mind as a candidate for the vacant Egypt post.
Still, one or two Egyptian outlets did mentioned him in connection with the job, so we’re obliged to include him.
Unfortunately for Egypt, it looks like their top two candidates are staying put; Renard with Morocco and Queiroz with Iran.
The remaining possibilities, according to media outlets, don’t exactly fit the bill in terms of stipulations publicly put forth by EFA officials.
So, what if none of these names pans out? That eventuality is entirely possible given Cúper himself was never mentioned as a candidate before suddenly and surprisingly getting hired.
Here are a few other names to consider, based on both opinion and the EFA’s provisions.
Milutin Sredojević – Recall the EFA’s declaration of prerequisites: experienced with national teams, financially viable, experienced in Africa, and young.
Well, “Coach Micho” as he’s called, might be the only name around that meets every single one of these preconditions. The only obstacle would be that he’s currently under contract with South Africa’s Orlando Pirates.
Micho led Uganda to the 2017 AFCON finals, their first since 1978.
His Cranes charges also offered Egypt’s stiffest resistance in 2018 World Cup qualifying, though he eventually left the team due to unpaid wages.
The 49-year-old Serbian also has several African accolades to his name at the club level.
Ricardo Gareca – The 60-year-old just became a free-agent after concluding an impressive three-year stint as Peru manager, guiding them to the Copa America semifinals and this year’s World Cup, the nation’s first appearance since 1978.
His teams are tactically balanced, organized, and menacing in attack.
Peru is trying its best to retain Gareca’s services, and he’s also emerged as a candidate to replace Jorge Sampaoli as Argentina manager.
Peter Bosz – Currently a free agent after being sacked by Borussia Dortmund, the Dutchman has a respectable CV, including an impressive season as Ajax manager in which he led them to the 2017 Europe League final.
Bosz has no experience with national teams or Africa, however.
Serhiy Rebrov – How about this 44-year-old Ukrainian as a sleeper candidate?
This unlikely choice is inexperienced, having only managed two teams, but has an impressive 67.24 winning percentage.
He’s never coached in Africa, but one of his two managerial posts was in the middle east, with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.
Despite his lack of experience, Rebrov has already won two Ukrainian league titles, two Ukrainian cups, and a Ukrainian Super Cup.
Who ends up supplanting Cúper is anybody’s guess, as the recent past illustrates.
To be sure, however, there are a handful of capable managers available that are worthy of the post.
In the end, it’ll likely come down to how well the EFA recruits these names and ultimately, how much its willing to pay to continue the progression the team has shown since 2015.
However, miserliness and/or failure to properly screen résumés and Egypt may quickly find itself regressing to the dark days that marred the start of the decade.