Egyptian forward Amr Zaki has made a prolific start to his English Premier League career, leading the early scoring charts with 7 goals in 8 games. A few months ago no one in England knew who Zaki was, now the forward, on loan at Wigan, is being chased by Liverpool and Manchester City, with Real Madrid obviously mentioned too.
Amr Hassan Zaki was born in Mansoura, Egypt, on the 1st of April 1983. His club career started with his home team, Al-Mansoura, where his prolific goal scoring, 20 goals in 20 games, caught the attention of bigger teams. He moved on to ENPPI where he found the net 16 times in 41 games, and took ENPPI to their best league finish ever when they ended the 2004-2005 season as runners up. They also won the 2005 Egyptian Cup, their first trophy ever. Impressive performances in the 2006 African Cup of Nations alerted European clubs to his talent and Zaki signed for Lokomotov Moscow for a reported $2million. His first taste of Europe turned out to be nothing short of a nightmare as the Egyptian striker lasted only 6 months in Russia, without featuring for a single minute for his new club. Zaki returned home to Egypt and signed for El Zamalek. Once again he found his scoring touch and eroded the disaster of Russia with 22 goals in 54 games for Zamalek. That scoring form, together with his international exploits, Zaki has netted 29 times in 48 games for Egypt, alerted Steve Bruce, the Wigan manager, and a deal to take Zaki to England, on loan for a season, was completed.
There is no doubting the talent of African football. Drogba, Essien, Toure and a host of others in England’s top teams are testament to that. But for every massive hit there are many misses, as the climate, culture, language and home sickness make settling into European football difficult. Indeed even the best players need a settling in period before we start to see the best of them. Many African players take a similar route to European football success, moving to France first, where the league is full of African players, and in terms of the North African players, language is not a problem. After cutting their teeth in France for a few seasons they are ready to move on to England, Spain and Italy. The likes of Drogba, Essien, Kieta and many others have followed this path. Yet Bruce took a gamble on a player who’s only other European experience had been a failure. And it was a gamble that has so far paid off handsomely.
Zaki has needed no time to settle in. He scored in pre season games, and just carried on scoring in the regular season. He is top of the English scoring tables, and has all the top clubs watching him carefully. A quote from his Wigan manager, Steve Bruce, probably best describes why he has been such a success so far.
When you look at this lad and his build, he is the same height, weight, everything about him, he is like Alan Shearer. He has the same confidence when he gets the ball, he knows where the goal is, he doesn’t need to look up, he has this instinct. Strikers like that have an instinct as to where the goal is. You can’t describe it, you can’t give it to anybody.
Zaki seems made for the English game. The toughness and combativeness that takes many new comers by surprise are part of his game. He is an English type forward who seems to have found the best style for his play.
While all has gone well for Zaki the true test will come from December. Not only will he no longer by a surprise package to the league, but the colder weather will test the mettle of the Egyptian sun reared player. Should he come through that period there can be little doubt that suitors will come knocking on his door.
Bruce has Zaki on load until June. He will do well to tie him down to a permanent deal before then. However the stories doing the rounds linking Zaki with moves to City and Liverpool may give the player more options for his future. He must remember though that Bruce took a gamble on him, showed faith in him, and can guarantee him first team football. In time his talent may prove to big for Wigan, but for now he is at the right club.