Islam Slimani, the top scorer in the history of the Algerian selection (40 goals), set the scene when he arrived in Oran, where the Fennecs will face Guinea and Nigeria in a friendly on September 23 and 27. Questioned by journalists on his arrival at the hotel where the team is staying, the Brest striker advised them to “talk to those who have returned, because I have never left, I have always been the “. A spade addressed, everyone understood, to Andy Delort, 30, the Nice striker and incidentally competitor of Slimani in the offensive sector of the 2019 African champions.
Algeria – CAN 2019: Belmadi, the ten months that changed everything
A year ago, in October 2021, Delort, who had just been transferred from Montpellier to Nice, announced his decision to temporarily give up the national team to devote himself to his new club. This decision, taken three months before the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon, was particularly badly received in Algeria, and not just Djamel Belmadi, the coach of the Fennecs. He took the opportunity to publicly question the attitude of the leaders of Nice, who would have put pressure on Delort and other African players so that they do not participate in the competition.
A locker room loaded with ego
Eleven months later, Andy Delort (11 caps, 2 goals), international since 2019 – his mother is of Algerian origin – and African champion in Egypt in stride, is back with a team that is recovering of its failed Cameroonian CAN and its elimination from the World Cup against Cameroon (1-0, 1-2). He apologized to the Algerian people, adding that he decided in 2021 to step back also for private reasons, which Belmadi confirmed. The Algerian coach was also quick to specify that “Delort had excluded himself from the selection, that he [Belmadi] had never closed the door to anyone, but that if Algeria had qualified for the World Cup, Andy would not have been called up for these two friendly matches”.
Algeria – CAN 2019: Youcef Atal, the art of counter-attack
Slimani’s brief but dry statement therefore suggests that Delort will not necessarily be welcome in an ego-laden locker room. “If some are not opposed to the return of Delort, others, even if they are in the minority, have not forgotten his attitude last year, and they are not particularly delighted to see him again”, confirms Mouadh Nemroudi, radio journalist El-Bahdja. Slimani, renowned for his frankness, is obviously part of the lot, as well as other executives of the team, but for Ali Fergani, former Algerian international then coach of the Fennecs, the best interests of the team must come before the cases personal. “If Belmadi recalled Delort, it is because he believes he needs it. The player apologized, he had probably been clumsy last year in his communication, but as the coach is intelligent and he has always said that no door was closed… Even if everyone is obviously not favorable in his presence, I think he will be well received”.
How will Oran welcome him?
From Kenchela, in the Aurès, where he coaches the local team, promoted to Ligue 1 this season, Nabil Neghiz, who was briefly coach in 2016, recalls that at one time, “the name of Delort would have been inscribed on a blacklist, as was sometimes the case. Players who decided to turn their backs on the national team were certain never to return. Today is different, and in Belmadi’s place, I would have done the same thing. Delort is one of the good attackers in the French championship, he needs him, so he summons him. “If the reception reserved for the striker of OGC Nice could prove to be rather lukewarm in the locker room, the other question concerns the attitude of the Algerian public and more particularly that of Oran, since the two matches of the Fennecs will take place in the great city of the North-West.
Algeria: CAN 2019, corruption, training… the contrasting results of Kheireddine Zetchi
The port city has not hosted the national team since September 4, 2005 and a humiliation inflicted by Nigeria (2-5) in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. Algeria then took up residence in Blida, where it has played the vast majority of its international matches. “It’s an audience that particularly likes the selection, and I think that its attention will first be on it, even if Delort will undoubtedly be whistled by part of the stadium”, assures Neghiz. Mouadh Nemroudi would like to share the optimism of the USM Kenchala coach, but the journalist envisages a less benevolent reception instead. “From what I hear, what we read on social networks, there are more people who are hostile to Delort’s return than in favor. I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of the stadium would whistle him…”
But it will probably be enough for the match to turn to Algeria’s advantage for the public at the new Olympic Stadium in Oran to worry more about their team than the cas Delort…