The 'Algerian Cantona' grows up
More than a few coaches will be finding it hard to believe
During a decade in France -- with Troyes, Istres, Ajaccio and Lorient -- no one ever questioned the 34-year-old's technical ability, delicate touch or wide range of flicks and backheels. Yet, in the eyes of most, his undoubted skills came at too high a price.
"He was a player who would have you tearing your hair out," says his former boss at Istres,
"Of course, the fans loved it. But, when you are fighting against relegation, he's a luxury you cannot afford. He's an artist. Not one for effectiveness. In times past, when everybody played to win, he'd be the first on the team sheet. But not now.
"That said, he'd be a sensation at a club like Marseille, where the supporters love extravagant ability. He would have had the Stade Vélodrome in his pocket."
But it seems you can teach an old dog new tricks. While still able to turn a game with a devastating dribble or magical party piece, Saïfi unexpectedly reinvented himself during 2010 World Cup qualifying, toning down the overt individualism and at long last, learning how to mix up the flashes of genius with basic, but nonetheless essential, link-up work -- the sort of tasks he once would have thought below him.
Rather than showboating, he is now more focused on winning games for Algeria, and he certainly did his fair share of spadework en route to South Africa, forever impressing with his quick feet, vision and goals.
The onetime lone ranger has also developed into a fine skipper; a guiding light on and off the pitch (though
And he did a good job, too, with Algeria winning the Sudan showdown 1-0 to book only its third World Cup finals appearance, after 1982 and 1986.
"I said my piece to the boys, so did our coach [
"We felt we were victims of an injustice, and to make it worse this happened in another Arab country. We had players hurt on that bus, including myself. The Egyptians said we made it all up. But we had proof. We filmed it on our mobiles. FIFA should have done a lot more about it. [
Straight talking is second nature to Saïfi. When Troyes coach
Some assumed Saïfi's decision to leave Ligue 1 Lorient last summer for a short stay at the Al-Khor club in Qatar would signal the end of his international career. Not a bit of it. The "Algerian