Only close followers of Portuguese football are acquainted with him for now, but Egyptian striker Ahmed Hassan Mahgoub, known in Portugal by his middle name, has a decent shot at becoming a household name in the game in the coming years.
The tall Rio Ave marksman showed goal-scoring ability from the moment he was thrust into the first team when still a teenager, and has steadily improved over three seasons. Hassan’s goals go some way to explaining how one of Portugal’s more modest top-flight clubs has over-achieved throughout that period.
A wonderfully polished finisher, the Cairo-born centre-forward is a throwback to another era in that he is a striker who confines his whole game to the space in and around the attacking penalty area.
Hassan is neither fast nor particularly mobile, but his adeptness at losing his marker, ghosting into scoring positions and applying the lethal touch when the opportunity presents itself are qualities that will almost certainly lead to his signing for one of Portugal’s major clubs this summer.
Sporting have long been attempting to lure him to the Alvalade, but according to reports it is Lisbon rivals Benfica who have made the decisive move and Hassan is expected to check in for pre-season training ahead of 2015/16 as a Benfica player.
Asked to comment on a prospective move to the Estádio da Luz, veteran coach Manuel José, who managed Hassan as a youth player when in charge of Al Ahly, has few doubts he can make a big impact at the Portuguese champions elect.
“His characteristics as a player are much better suited to a big team that play near the opposition box than a smaller team. He’s improved greatly. He’s not the fastest but in the area he knows how to position himself very well and he’s a clinical finisher. He doesn’t just take a swing at the ball, he looks to use his technique to apply the finish,” said José.
“I’m convinced he has the scoring qualities to make it at Benfica. He played under me when he was just 18 in some friendly games in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and what impressed me most was the ease and calmness with which he aimed to score. Whether it was with his head or his foot he wouldn’t just whack the ball, he’d look to place it skilfully into the net. He recognises that in the box what you need is intelligence and technique – not force.”
One of Hassan’s most famous goals was an angled rocket shot angled into the top corner against Sporting this season (see below at 2:50), but the spectacular strike was the exception that proves the rule.
As Manuel José pointed out, Hassan’s ability to almost caress the ball into the net is evident in the following compilation of some of his best moments at Rio Ave:
‘Big club’ player
Every year the Big Three in the Primeira Liga (Benfica, Porto and Sporting) pluck the outstanding performers from Portugal’s smaller clubs. Most of them struggle to make an impact. José believes Hassan will buck that particular trend and make a smooth transition.
“Some players are big players for a small club, but when they go to a big club they turn into a small player. Hassan won’t have this problem. I don’t think he’ll wilt under the pressure of playing for Benfica. He played for a huge club in Egypt, Al Ahly, who have 60 million supporters – curiously it’s another team that plays in red and has an Eagle as its crest.
“He’s used to the pressure that goes with playing for a massive club. Compare that to [Benfica striker] Derley this season. Derley came from a small 2nd division club in Brazil, he was a beast for Marítimo, but at Benfica he completely vanished.”
Hassan’s build and style have been compared to Benfica legend Oscar Cardozo, the club’s all-time highest foreign scorer. Hassan will be hoping he can soar to similar heights with the Eagle on his chest.
Written by Tom Kundert
Follow Tom on Twitter @PortuGoal1
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