Bilic’s West Brom future in doubt after Hegazi transfer behind his back

Slaven Bilic's West Brom future is in doubt after defender Ahmed Hegazi was sold behind his back.

Baggies chiefs completed a transfer for the Egyptian international to join Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad just 24 hours before their Premier League clash with Brighton.

The 17th-placed Baggies travel to the AMEX Stadium on Monday night looking to pick up their first win of the season.

But Bilic’s task was made all the more difficult when he learned that Hegazi – who started in last week's goalless draw with Burnley and had been expected to remain in the team – was departing.

Mirror Sport exclusively revealed on Sunday that Hegazi – who was the highest-paid player at the club – was leaving ahead of the transfer deadline in Saudi.

Ironically, it is the Croatian’s former club, who he left before taking over at the Hawthorns almost 18 months ago, whom he has joined.

Albion were offered a deal the board believed they couldn't refuse, banking £4million and saving another £3.5m-a-year in wages, with Hegazi's deal up in 2022.

It was also felt that, after signing Branislav Ivanovic and Cedric Kipre, and with last season's first-choice pairing of Kyle Bartley and Semi Ajayi still at the club, plus Dara O'Shea, it was right to let Hegazi depart.

The Egyptian, who was back up in the Championship, playing just 14 times, was also keen to move as he is increasing his current £70,000-a-week deal.

But the situation has left Bilic far from happy.

After masterminding West Brom’s return to the top-flight at the first time of asking, the popular Croatian was determined to bring in quality players to boost their survival chances.

But despite the arrivals of Ivanovic and £12million striker Karlan Grant, he has effectively been left with much of the same squad as last season, despite identifying players who could deliver his ambitious aims.

Indeed, Bilic has wanted to sign Grant last January, but was left to wait an agonising 24 hours before the transfer window shut before he could eventually bring the striker in.

The delayed deal – spread out over six years of £2m payments – compounded what has been a frustrating period behind the scenes at The Hawthorns.

Fellow new boys Leeds have splashed almost £100million on the likes of record signing Rodrigo, Germany international Robin Koch, Spanish defender Diego Llorente and Brazilian winger Raphinha to reinvigorate their squad after promotion.

West Brom, with just two points from a possible 15 so far, claimed Grant was their ninth capture of the summer.

But in reality, he was one of just four permanent new faces – including Kipre, Ivanovic and back-up goalkeeper David Button.

Unproven Chelsea youngster Conor Gallagher arrived on loan, while £18million Grady Diagana, £12million Matheus Pereira, Callum Robinson and returning Benfica loanee Filip Krovinovic were all part of Bilic’s side last season.

It is believed that Bilic had to fight internally to force through the return of Krovinovic in a season-long loan deal from Benfica.

As such the delay meant that the playmaker missed the first three games of the season.

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Equally, Bilic was left sweating over whether he would sign Grant.

When the move initially went cold, the manager's repeated requests to push through a meeting with the club’s Chinese owners were dismissed outright.

Ultimately his nagging persistence to capture his No.1 target paid off.

But Grant’s arrival merely papers over the cracks of an attack that has failed to score in three of its five games so far.

The former West Ham manager’s arrival in the Midlands coincided with the departures of three key forwards.

Salomon Rondon, who had been on loan at Newcastle, moved to China, while the exits of Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez – who had contributed a combined 46 league goals between them in 2018/19 – further reduced Bilic’s options.

The club's technical and sporting director Luke Dowling presided over the combined £12m outlay on Kenneth Zohore and Charlie Austin to replace them and fire the side to promotion – only for Bilic to prefer the converted Welshman Hal Robson-Kanu as his centre-forward.

Zohore and Austin managed just 13 league goals between them last term, and the Dane has already moved on loan to Millwall, while Austin appears destined to leave in January after failing to secure a Deadline Day departure.

Now, with Robson-Kanu facing a period on the sidelines due to a broken arm, Bilic has been left with little time to get new boy Grant up to scratch.

He managed just 60 minutes before he was withdrawn last Monday against Burnley – having spent the best part of the past two months training with Huddersfield's reserves.

Now, in his latest act of business, Dowling oversaw the deal to send Hegazi to the Middle East in a deal that is initially just a loan and nets Albion only £2m up front.

Bilic and his team already face a battle to put points on the board and this has left a sour taste in the mouth of the Albion boss.

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