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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: West Bromwich Albion manager Slaven Bilic has hinted that a failed bid by Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad to sign Ahmed Hegazi played a part in the player being dropped for yesterday’s squad for the 1-1 draw at home to Brentford.
Reports in the UK press on Saturday morning alleged that Al-Ittihad had a £3.4 million offer rejected by the Baggies, who now sit top of the Championship, the second tier of English football, three points ahead of second placed Leeds United.
When questioned if Hegazi’s exclusion was related to the proposed move, Bilic, who managed Al-Ittihad last season before taking over at the Hawthorns in the summer, acknowledged it had played an indirect part.
“It has something to do with that,” Bilic said. “Something happened yesterday on the training ground. It is not something I want to share or discuss with the media.
“It was little things but big enough for him not to be in the squad today.”
The 28-year-old Hegazi has struggled to hold down a first team place at West Brom this season, starting only three league matches.
The Egypt international and former Fiorentina and Al-Ahly player first moved to the club on loan at the start of the 2017-18 season. He had a dream start to his career in England, scoring the winning goal on his Premier League debut against Bournemouth, and racking up several man of the match awards in his early months at the club.
His excellent form prompted West Brom to make the transfer permanent, and despite relegation from the Premier League to the Championship, Hegazi became a popular figure with the club’s supporters.
Hegazi also represented Egypt at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the first time that the African nation had qualified for the tournament since 1990.
But things started to sour for Hegazi during the last campaign. A drop in form and a late-season sending off away away to Millwall saw fans question his leadership qualities alongside other senior members of the squad. Despite finishing fourth in the Championship table, the club failed to get promoted back to the Premier League after losing out in the playoff semi-final to eventual winners Aston Villa.
As the club has excelled this season in its efforts to return to the top flight, Hegazi has been left mostly on the sidelines, and is believed to be considering his future.
Meanwhile, Al-Ittihad, despite being one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent and historically successful clubs, have been going through a tough time recently.
Last season the Jeddah side barely avoided relegation, finishing 10th in the 16-team division, and this season has seen a continuation of that poor form.
On Thursday, the club suffered a humiliating 4-1 defeat at Al-Feiha, with many supporters venting their frustrations on social media. That had followed another loss, a 2-1 reversal at home to Al-Faisaly, a week earlier.
The run of poor form now leaves Al-Ittihad in 13th place in the Saudi Professional League, having won only four matches and lost eight.
When approached by Arab News, Al-Ittihad refused to comment on the alleged bid for Hegazi.
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