Since the legendary Hungarian Nandor Hidegkuti was in charge of Al Ahly in the 1970s, no other coach has captured the hearts of their fans like current boss Manuel Jose. In 2001, his first year, he guided the Cairo club to CAF Champions League glory with a squad comprising mostly of promising youngsters like Hossam Ghaly, now at Tottenham Hotspur.
He left at the end of that season before returning three years ago to help them to eight trophies and have the title of 'King' bestowed upon him by the club's supporters. Jose talked to FIFA.com about his second trip to Japan and what he anticipates for his side this time around.
FIFA.com: What is the secret behind your huge success with Al Ahly?
Manuel Jose: The professionalism. Most of the people in this club know their duties, the management is very well organised, we have some of the best players in Africa and great supportive fans, who helped me a lot with my work and gave me what I need to make this side a successful club.
There were huge ambitions when you played in Japan last year, but you finished in last position . What was the reason behind this poor result?
Last year, we won the CAF Champions League without a single defeat and we were unbeaten for almost a year. People thought we were invincible. They thought we could return with the cup which put a lot of pressure on my players. They lost their concentration and we underestimated our opponents which resulted in our defeats.
So, what are your plans this time?
I am only asking my players to play their normal game regardless of the results. I do not want them looking over their shoulders while they face their opponents.
Does that mean you are not expecting to win?
We would not have flown 14 hours to Japan if we didn't think we could! Al Ahly is a very big name. We play to win every single game and that is what we are planning to do even if we face Barcelona , but we also have to realise that if we face them, we're not going to be favourites!
What about the other contenders?
I am sure that all six sides are first-rate teams and they have all earned their ticket to Japan, but all I am thinking about now is our first match against Auckland City . If we win, I will be happy, but if we lose, I do not want it to be because we did not play well, but because our contenders were better than us.
Eight titles in three years, do you think it can get any better?
It is not only trophies that I care about - I am always looking to developing our game. I think Al Ahly can be as good as any European club. This is my ultimate target.