Bob Bradley will be more than an admirer as he watches Egypt play in the FIFA World Cup in Russia next month. After all, the current LAFC head coach led the African country in the last World Cup cycle.
Bradley, who talks freely about the crucible his Pharaohs team endured during his stint in charge, from a revolution in the country that overthrew the government to a massacre at a soccer match that shut down club soccer in the nation for nearly a year, did not make the 2014 World Cup with Egypt, as they lost in the final two-game playoff. But his time in charge helped bring through a generation of players who did reach the biggest global soccer tournament, including superstar Mohamed Salah.
Salah, who has broken out in a major way this season with Liverpool, leading the English club to the Champions League final and earning the Premier League Golden Boot, made his senior debut for Egypt just prior to Bradley's appointment in 2011, but the American helped bring the teenager along and get him ready for European soccer.
“When the league stopped, we had to start to put together camps and friendly matches because World Cup qualifying was that June,” Bradley told reporters at LAFC training in recent weeks.
“We started having opportunities to bring young guys into the camps and immediately you knew that Salah was special.”
Salah moved to Swiss club FC Basel in 2012, beginning a swift rise through the ranks of top-level soccer, as he played at Chelsea, Fiorentina, Roma and then Liverpool, becoming more and more dominant at each stop from his forward position.
“I was excited that we could help in some way when the moment came for him to go to FC Basel," Bradley explained. "And then when he did well there, other doors in Europe opened for him.”
When asked what he saw in Salah, now mooted to be the player to potentially break up the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly over the annual World Player of the Year award, Bradley said, “He was hungry, smart, he wanted to get better."
And now, Salah will help lead Egypt back out to the soccer world's biggest stage in Russia. The Pharoahs will play in Group A alongside the tournament hosts, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, their first match coming on June 15.
Bradley, who still talks to Salah regularly, is happy to see his one-time player succeed on the biggest stage.
“Salah’s a great guy and I’m so happy for him because he was so determined to take his career and move with it," he said.
Futbol MLS's John Rojas contributed reporting to this article.