Super Eagles of Nigeria Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr yesterday released a list of 23 players that will battle South Africa in an African Nations Cup qualifier on the 10th of June at the Nest of Champions in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.
There were some surprise exclusions in Franco-german coach’s list, one of which was Victor Moses. The newly-crowned champion of England Chelsea wing-back requested to leave on the grounds of him needing toe surgery during the off season. Nigeria Professional Football League top goalscorer Stephen Odey of MFM FC and teammate Sikiru Olatunbosun was also not on the list alongside China based striking duo of Brown Ideye and Odion Ighalo.
One name which appeared on the list that sent tongues wagging about who he was and where Rohr had gotten this seeming ‘newbie’ from was Zamalek’s Maarouf Youssef.
Youssef surprisingly made the cut after not being part of the players camped in France and was not part of the friendlies against Senegal, Corsica and that which will play Togo later today (Thursday). Who then is Maarouf Youssef? Naijafootballplus.com spoke with Egyptian based football Journalist, Mohamed El Banna who writes for @Filgoal and has been following Zamalek for sometime now for an expert view of who this relatively unknown player is.
Asked to describe who Youssef was, El Banna said: “He is my favourite Player in Zamalek last games. He became one of the most important key player in Zamalek.
“Good at passes specifically long passes and he has good view to arrange his team. Also he is good at high pressure (playing a high pressing game).
Maarouf Youssef Abdallah is a 25-year old Centre-half who is capable of playing in midfield.
The Kwara State born defender joined Zamalek in 2014 from Egyptian club, Ittihad El-Shorta and has made over 100 appearances for Zamalek winning the Egyptian Premier League title in 2014-2015 season. He’s also won the Egypt cup twice with the White Knights (in 2015 and 2016).
“He is good in tackle and he has ability to cut the ball and start the attack in a good shape”, said El Banna.
“His height is good enough for winning the aerial duels.
Youssef who started as a Centre-back for Zamalek has been used in the left sided Centre-back position but can also play in Left back. Recently though, he has been used in midfield where he has excelled, providing three assists for fellow countryman Stanley Ohawuchi.
“His quality appear in formation 4-3-3 when he plays in left side of the middle”, said El Banna.
“What we noticed later… is that he is good also in a 4-2-3-1 when he plays next to a DMF (Defensive Midfield) player.”
Despite Mohamed El Banna’s glowing report about him he did had some warning for coach Gernot Rohr.
“If you ask me about advice for Nigerian coach about Maarouf.. it will be, don’t make him your left back.
“He played as a back lift in CAF Champions League Final against Sundowns last season because of the shortage in Zamalek squad and he failed.
“I’ll play him in the middle next to a holding midfielder in my squad”, El Banna concluded.
Mohamed El Banna is an Egyptian Sports Journalist and Senior Editor for FilGoal, you can follow him on twitter: @ElBanna