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Cairo giants Zamalek parted company with French coach Patrice Carteron on Monday in a move that could also have repercussions in Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt. 

A 3-1 loss to Wydad Casablanca in the CAF Champions League on Saturday sealed the Frenchman’s fate with criticism over his tactics and second-half substitutions. The loss left the White Knights without a win in the first three games in Group D, meaning that the five-time title-winners are facing a first round exit from the continental competition if results don’t improve quickly.

At home, the defending Egypt Premier League champions are currently third in the domestic standings behind bitter rivals Al-Ahly and Pyramids.

Carteron is expected to be replaced by Portuguese tactician Jaime Pacheco for his third spell in charge of the club.

Carteron himself leaves Zamalek for a second time. The first exit came in December 2019 when joined Al-Taawoun in Saudi Arabia. In March 2021, the former Al-Nassr boss made the return journey to the Egyptian capital. Now he is leaving again and in his goodbye message to the fans, the 51-year-old was keen to leave his options open.

“I want to thank the Zamalek fans and the president of the club. I saw the support from everyone after my sad departure. I wanted to win a second trophy with Zamalek,” Carteron said. “I don’t want to start any problems with the club or resort to FIFA. I would like to terminate the contract amicably because I want to be able to return to the club at any time.”

This being Zamalek, there was more drama surrounding the decision. On Sunday, the club’s President Mortada Mansour said that he had heard an audio message that he alleged came from Carteron. In it, the president claimed, the coach was talking to his agent and instructing the representative to complete negotiations with a club from Saudi Arabia.

“Carteron is preparing to flee Zamalek for the second time, and we have voice recordings of him that I will disclose,” Mansour, who had recently complained about Saudi Arabian teams trying to sign his best players, said on television, adding that he was ready to complain to FIFA about the French coach.

That does not seem necessary now and the situation seems to have been settled amicably but the goings-on have been noticed in Saudi Arabia. Many think that the club that Carteron is allegedly talking with is Al-Ahli. The position of the club’s current coach Besnik Hasi is highly uncertain after a disappointing season in which the Jeddah giants are facing relegation worries and were booted from the King’s Cup last week.

Then there was last weekend’s dramatic 4-3 loss to Al-Ittihad in the Jeddah derby against the league leaders. To come back from 3-0 down to 3-3 was a fine achievement, but a last-minute penalty decision saw the embattled team finish the fixture with no points.

While officials at the club continue to deny it, there have been rumors that the Albanian boss could soon be on his way out while there is still time for a new manager to make a difference this season. 

In the last few days, other clubs in the lower reaches of the Saudi Professional League have been making last rolls of the dice in a bid to ensure survival. In the past week, two of the bottom three have released their coaches. 

Al-Hazm were dead last when they jettisoned Constantin Galca on Feb.21. Three days later, Al-Faisaly said goodbye to Daniel Ramos after a run of poor results saw the team drop into the relegation zone and then hired Marinos Ouzounidis from Greece. It remains to be seen what effect these changes will have, but it was noticeable that Al-Hazm performed well in their 2-0 loss to defending champions Al-Hilal.

Al-Ettifaq are second from bottom and are expected to make a coaching change soon. Under Vladan Milojevic, the Dammam club have not tasted victory since November. Their next game is against Al-Ahli on Friday.

Assuming both coaches are in place for that fixture, defeat may well spell the end of the line for one. It is set to be a huge game. Victory will take the Jeddah giants and four-time champions clear of the drop zone.

Al-Ahli Club President Majid Al-Nafiei told local television on Monday that this is what he expects to happen and the club are already planning for next season, which he promised will be in the top tier. “We will not go down and there will be many changes,” he said. “We have been working hard to prepare for next season on the technical side and in terms of bringing in players.”

It remains to be seen what happens with the coach.


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