The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) has dismissed reports linking the vacant national team head coach position to Croatia World Cup hero Zlatko Dalic as unrealistic.
The Pharaohs are on the hunt for a new coach after Hector Cuper’s contract was not extended following Egypt’s early exit in June. Under the Argentine, Egypt endured a disappointing tournament, losing all three of their matches against Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia to finish bottom of Group A.
At the same time, Dalic was leading Croatia to the final in Russia only to be denied the title by a 4-2 defeat at the hands of France in Moscow. As well as the results, Dalic and his team won plaudits for their style of play.
Reports in Cairo and Croatia suggested that the EFA was preparing a move for Dalic, with the 51-year-old tactician yet to confirm whether he will be staying with Croatia, the post he took in October last year after three years with Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates.
“Of course we would be interested in Dalic if there was a chance,” an EFA official told Arab News.
“Everyone saw the job he did at the World Cup and Croatia were the opposite of Egypt, they played with adventure, skill and spirit. However, it was never a realistic option for us. Cuper’s salary was already very high but it would be nothing compared to what we would need in order to attract Dalic. It was never going to happen.”
Cuper was reportedly the highest paid national team coach in Africa before his departure, receiving an annual sum of around €1.5 million ($1.75 million). According to Croatian media, should Dalic decide to leave his post, he will be looking for a salary well in excess of that figure.
“Like it or not, I am the second best coach in the world,” Dalic told Croatian newspaper Vecernji list in an interview earlier this week.
“And this figure of $5 million per year for the second coach of the world is too small.”
Dalic is on the shopping list of a number of teams as the next cycle of football continues after the end of the World Cup.
“Even if we could afford him, he is now in demand and if he decides to look for a new job then he will get plenty of offers from Europe,” the Egyptian official added.
Dalic may be off the table but the EFA, with qualification for the 2019 African Cup of Nations continuing in September, has confirmed they are looking for a foreign coach, naming four candidates at the top of the shopping list.
The front-runner is Javier Aguirre. The 59-year-old has experience in Spain, took his native Mexico to the second round at the 2010 World Cup and has time in the Middle East under his belt following two seasons with Abu Dhabi club, Al-Wahda.
Next in line is Vahid Halilhodzic, Aguirre’s successor as head coach of Japan in 2015. The Bosnian has been heavily linked with a return to Algeria, a team he led to the second round of the 2014 World Cup. He then qualified Japan for the 2018 tournament, only to be fired two months before the tournament kicked off after poor results and reports of player unrest.
Also in the mix is Quique Sanchez Flores, the former Atletico Madrid and Watford coach, as well as being Dalic’s predecessor at Al-Ain, though the Spaniard’s lack of national team experience could count against him. Jorge Luis Pinto has plenty of experience, with spells in charge of Colombia, Costa Rica and Honduras, but has no Middle Eastern experience on his CV.
As for Cuper (above left), the former Valencia and Inter Milan boss is set to be announced as new coach of Uzbekistan within the next few days as the Central Asians prepare for the 2019 Asian Cup in January.