Wigan Athletic manager Steve Bruce has launched an amazing personal attack against on-loan striker Amr Zaki, branding him the most unprofessional player he has ever worked with.
The Egypt forward was due to be back with his club on Tuesday, more than 36 hours after the World Cup qualifier against Zambia. While club-mate and compatriot Mido reported back to Wigan on time Zaki remains AWOL.
Following Egypt's 1-1 draw there were reports that Mido and Zaki, both combustible personalities, had fallen out. It is unclear whether these claims have anything to do with Zaki's current absence.
Despite numerous attempts by Wigan officials to contact the player, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Wednesday, he could not be traced. This is the fourth time this season the El Zamalek striker has returned late from international duty and he will be fined heavily by Bruce.
''I just feel it's time that we went public on just what a nightmare he has been to deal with,'' said the Latics boss.
''I can honestly say that in all my time in football I have never worked with someone as unprofessional. I am right behind my players representing their countries, it is a tremendous honour for the club. This is not the issue here.
''But my South American players, for instance, have to go much longer distances but I have never had a problem with any of them. In Zaki's case it really defies belief from a player who is on loan and trying to earn himself a long-term contract.
''I'm sick of answering questions about Zaki's whereabouts and I don't want anything to distract the players from preparing for another massive game for us on Sunday against Everton.
''Zaki's behaviour has shown total disrespect to the club who pays him a very good wage and equally as importantly, to the fans who sing his name from the stands. I think it's time for them to know the truth about the man.
''This situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible and I don't feel it's appropriate to say anything more at this stage, apart from how let down I feel, personally and professionally.''
The Latics have received a faxed report from the Egypt team doctor claiming Zaki has a hamstring injury and needed rest but that has not been backed up by the required scan to highlight the problem.
''I really am at the end of my tether with him,'' said Bruce. ''Before this latest incident, Zaki had already been fined considerably more than the average person in Britain earns in a year and he will now face another heavy fine.
''This is the fourth time he has not reported back on time from international training. I have already fined him the maximum allowed but this just seems to have no effect.
''I am now fearful that if I don't take firm action, it will disrupt the rest of my squad, who - to a man - behave totally professionally.''
Ironically, prior to Christmas he was one player who was being talked about as a major target for a number of Premier League clubs, after scoring nine goals in his first 13 matches for Wigan.
However, he has not found the net in 10 matches since December 28 and injuries have disrupted the middle of his season. His last goal from open play came on October 18, since then he has only scored from the penalty spot. He has been on the bench behind Mido for the last two Premier League games and has not completed 90 minutes since January 17.