STEVE Bruce believes Ahmed al-Muhammadi’s pace will bring an extra dimension to Sunderland, but he has asked fans to give the Egyptian time to make an impact.
The 22-year-old joined on a season-long loan from ENPPI late yesterday afternoon. The Black Cats have an option to make the deal permanent for a total cost of £2.5m.
Al-Muhammadi has played 38 times for the African champions, and is equally comfortable at right-back or on the right of midfield.
But it is speed which Bruce regards as al-Muhammadi’s main asset. “We are delighted to get the deal done,” he said. “Ahmed is a player we’ve been aware of for a long time and we know exactly what he will bring to the squad.
“His pace and direct style will be an asset to us and give the team an extra dimension on the right-hand side.
“At only 22 he is already an experienced international, which will serve him well as he adjusts
to life in the Premier League. I expect it will take him time to settle but Ahmed is a player who can have a big impact in this division.”
Sunderland took al-Muhammadi on trial last August and have been monitoring him ever since. He becomes Sunderland’s third summer signing – after Paraguay midfielder Cristian Riveros and Belgium Under-21 goalkeeper Simon Mignolet – and he will compete for a place with the man likely to be the fourth, Marcos Angeleri. Only red tape is holding up the Argentinian right-back’s arrival.
Bruce’s words of warning about the time it will take his latest addition to settle are particularly apt.
The Corbridge-born manager has become well used to dealing with players from outside Europe and understands the need for patience in bedding them into a new culture and style of football. Al-Muhammadi has spent his entire club career in Egypt, making his debut for Ghazi El-Mehalla aged just 17 before joining Cairo’s ENPPI four years ago.
His latest signing secured, Bruce will turn his attention to centre-back, where Nedum Onuoha has re-emerged as a leading candidate.
In contrast to his success in landing players elsewhere, Bruce has been frustrated in his attempts to find a reliable partner for Michael Turner.
Sunderland thought they had found him when Schalke agreed to sell Heiko Westermann for £6m. But the Germany defender has no interest in leaving a club who, despite their financial problems, can offer Champions League football.
Bruce regards 31-year-old West Ham United defender Matthew Upson as overpriced in terms of wages and transfer fee, while John Mensah remains a gamble.
Having loaned him to Sunderland last season, Lyon will decide the Ghana captain’s future after the World Cup. Mensah has been on duty in South Africa where the quality of his performances will only have raised the 27-year-old’s market value.
But his absence from Ghana’s group game with Australia highlighted the problem. Mensah has long been troubled by related back, hamstring and calf problems and Lyon’s asking price does not reflect that. Bruce is therefore undecided whether to take a chance.
Onuoha offers an alternative. Newcastle United and Sunderland have both looked at the 23-year-old former England Under-21 international, who has found his options at Manchester City limited since Roberto Mancini’s arrival.
Unlike possible alternative Arne Friedrich, Onuoha learned his football in England. As of next season Premier League squads will not be allowed more than 17 players who are over the age of 21 and not “home-grown”. With Bruce increasingly looking beyond Europe for value for money, it could be a factor.
Everton are also interested in Onuoha, who can also play at right-back, although Sunderland’s options there are about to go from famine to feast.