AFTER A NOT IMPRESSIVE SEASON AT LEICESTER IN WHICH HE COULD ONLY MANAGE TWO GOALS IN 21 APPEARANCES, HE WAS UNSURPRISINGLY SHIPPED BACK ON LOAN TO FORMER CLUB, CSKA MOSCOW AND HE FOUND BACK HIS GROOVE. IT WAS THIS FORM HE TOOK TO THE 2018 WORLD CUP WHERE HE SCORED TWO GOALS FOR THE SUPER EAGLES AND ONE OF HIS GOALS WAS VOTED THE 6TH BEST GOAL OF THE COMPETITION. WHILE MANY OBSERVERS FELT HIS PERFORMANCE IN THE MUNDIAL WOULD EARN HIM A MOVE TO A BIGGER CLUB OR A RETURN TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE, MUSA HAD RATHER OPTED FOR THE SAUDI ARABIAN CLUB – AL NASSR, MAKING OBSERVERS WONDER IF HIS MOVE TO ASIA WAS PROFESSIONALLY A GOOD ONE OR THAT HE CONSIDERED CASH AHEAD OF PROFESSIONALISM. WRITES KUNLE ADEWALE
Most European players see countries of Asia and America as a retirement ground after a lucrative career in major European leagues. Former Barcelona captain, Xavi Hernandez left for Qatar after a lucrative career with Barcelona. His compatriot, Andres Iniestamoved to Japan at the end of the season at 34 years after winning everything with Barca. Kaka, Steven Gerrard wound up in America after successful careers in Europe.
At the unveiling of Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus, the Portuguese said while his age mates are now winding up in Asia, China and America, that at 34 he still chose to play at the top level, making one to wonder why Musa who is just at his prime – 25 years would be opting for Saudi Arabia.
However, former Nigerian international, Waidi Akani, does not see anything wrong with Musa’s move to Al Nassr.
In a chat with THISDAY on the telephone, Akani said, “I think he was just trying to get a break from European football,” Akanisaid.
Against the backdrop that Asia is seen as football haven for footballers that have passed their prime, and that the former CSKA striker’s move to Saudi Arabia may mean an end to his national team career, the former Super Eagles midfielder thinks otherwise.
“Musa can still play at the big stage, a comeback to the national team in spite of moving to Asia. There are lots of examples of players that had moved to Asia to revive their careers and still get a national team call. A good example is Asamah Gyan, who moved to Asia and was still a dependable player for the Black Stars of Ghana. It all depends on the player’s playing form, his current form and the number of minutes he gets to play. The level of football in Saudi Arabia is not as low as perceived, people generally have the wrong perception on the level of football in Saudi,” the Bolton University, United States Engineering graduate noted.
Musa on Wednesday left Leicester City’s camp in Austria, to seal a big money move to Saudi Arabia side, Al Nassr.
According to his representative, the Premier League side has accepted a fee of £14.8m with several add-ons, which will see the deal rise to as high as £25m.
“He will arrive, Saudi Arabia, tomorrow (Thursday) morning. A fee was agreed yesterday (Wednesday) but he had to tidy some of his belongings before heading out to Saudi Arabia. The deal is too good to turn down,” his representative told Owngoalnigeria.
“Al Nassr are getting him at his prime. He has regained his confidence at the World Cup with Nigeria and towards the end of last season he was one of the key men for CSKA Moscow during his loan spell,” he added.
Musa was a subject of the bid from Nassr after an impressive 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign where he scored two goals for the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
The 25-year-old caught the eyes of scouts in Russia with his impressive brace in Nigeria’s 2-0 win over Iceland in a Group D game.
Musa has already demanded the number 7 jersey at the club and the deal will reportedly make him the highest-paid Nigerian footballer when it is wrapped up.
The former Kano Pillars striker made history for himself with his two goals against Iceland by becoming the first Nigerian player to score at two different World Cups and making him the second African player to score two World Cup braces, after Roger Milla in 1990.
At the 2014 Mundial in Brazil, Musa was on the scoresheet, scoring twice in Nigeria’s 2-3 loss to Argentina in an encounter Lionel Messi also scored twice.
His feat against Iceland also goes into the history books in England as Musa also became the first Leicester player to score in a World Cup.
Musa moved to Leicester City in the summer of 2016 for a club record £16m after the then Premier League champions initial January bid was turned down by CSKA Moscow.
“Leicester City is delighted to announce that they have reached an agreement for the transfer of striker Ahmed Musa from CSKA Moscow for an undisclosed fee, subject to Premier League and FA approval,” a statement on Leicester’s website had read.
“I feel very happy joining Leicester City, for me, it’s one of the best clubs and I feel very happy. I joined because it’s one of the best clubs in the Premier League and they are like a family. That’s why I joined Leicester City and I’m very excited. I look forward to seeing the fans in the new season and I will do my best to make them happy,” he had said on signing for Leicester.
However, it was not to be as Musa who was coming with a profile of 13 goals in 29 Russian Premier League matches in his last season at CSKA could only manage two goals in 21 appearances for Leicester and it came as a little surprise when he was shipped back on loan to Moscow.
Before his return to CSKA, Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, had hinted at an impending move for Musa, positing that the move to Russia will be beneficial for the player and the Super Eagles as a team.
“Musa is going back to Russia and it is very good news that he will be playing there. Musa playing in Russia is a positive development so that we will have the sympathy of Russian fans. We have seen that when Brian Idowu was introduced in the game against Argentina. The fans encouraged us and he scored, this can be a good reason to get support from Russian fans because of the people there like Musa. Also, Musa knows the people there because he is familiar with them, he knows the weather condition too,” Rohr had said.
Musa began his career in the GBS Football Academy and in 2008, he moved to JUTH FC where he played 18 games, scoring four goals in his first two professional seasons for the Healers. He was subsequently loaned to Kano Pillars in the 2009-10 Season where he set the league record scoring multiple crucial goals as Pillars finished second.
Musa held the record for the highest goals ever scored in one season in the history of the Nigeria Premier League until November 2011, when Jude Aneke of Kaduna United set a new record of 20 goals.
He transferred to Dutch club VVV-Venlo in summer 2010, but the move was held up because he was only 17 years of age and therefore not eligible for an ITC in accordance with the current FIFA rules. He was officially eligible to play for VVV-Venlo in October 2010 when he eventually turned 18 years of age.
In 2010, Coach Lars Lagerback invited Musa for camping prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa after helping Nigeria win in the 2010 WAFU Nations Cup. He was however forced out of the Super Eagles’ 30-man World Cup provisional team due to an ankle injury.
Musa, however, made his debut for the Nigeria senior team in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match against Madagascar and scored his first goal for the Super Eagles against Kenya in 2011, in a friendly game and he has continued to march on from then.