The relationship between Moses Simon and Samuel Kalu had come a long way. Both players are products of the famous Golden Boot Soccer Academy of Jos. The two attackers spent two years together at Belgian side, Gent, before departures to Spain and France respectively. However, both had reunited in Uyo ahead of Nigeria’s AFCON qualifier game against Liberia today, but in a different atmosphere as both players would be struggling for one position in the team. They, however, said it would not strain their chummy relationship
Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, says he rates Moses Simon higher than Samuel Kalu, despite the latter’s rise to prominence and transfer to French Ligue 1 club Girondins de Bordeaux.
Kalu was handed the prestigious number 10 jersey at Bordeaux after completing a big-money move from Belgian First Division A side KAA Gent.
Simon himself has also left Gent, signing for Spanish La Liga club, Levante, on a five-year contract.
“I never selected him (Kalu). I saw him play, but in his team, I took another, which is Simon Moses. He is in my group since the beginning, two years ago. He is also a winger, fast. He’s almost the same, but I found him better than Kalu,” Rohr told the Girondins4ever website.
“Simon Moses was in my group. He was injured, he was the only injured player I had before the World Cup. He played with Kalu in La Gantoise. He missed the World Cup because of a muscle injury.”
Simon would be itching at the prospect of linking up with Kalu for the Super Eagles versus Mediterranean Knights. In Simon’s absence due to injury, Kalu got his international debut against Seychelles, impressing Rohr, culminating to suggestions that the Bordeaux winger may have knocked his former teammate off the team with his superb display.
However, ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations double-header qualifiers against Libya, Simon believes their reunion will benefit the team.
“Kalu is more than a friend. He is my brother; we can’t be seen to be in a competition for a position on the pitch due to our closeness off the pitch. We can play together on either flanks,” Simon was quoted by the Sun.
” If we don’t get to play, whoever that is selected will get the backing of the other. My presence will help him a lot, he knows what I can do, so he will be at his best in training and even if he gets selected to play.”
Kalu made his international debut last month against Seychelles, playing in Simon’s position on the right and impressed in winning a second-half penalty. However, with Simon back in the fold, Rohr might be tempted to revert to his preferred system and personnel?
Simon, aside from his tactical conscientiousness, is reportedly one of the German’s favourites in the national team set-up and will befavourite to regain his position in the side, in spite of the fact he has only played a total of 49 league minutes this term for new club Levante.
After injury shattered his dream of being part of Super Eagles’ party to the World Cup in Russia, Simon has since picked up the pieces.
When Rohr rolled out his 30-man provisional list for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with Simon included, the player believed he was just inches away from achieving his long-time dream of playing in the World Cup. But it was not to be as injury has ruined his dream.
Simon sustained a thigh injury in his second training session with the Super Eagles in Uyo and report of the scan carried out on Simon revealed the extent of the injury.
“It is unfortunate Moses Simon will not be travelling with the team to London because he is down with an injury. The nature of his injury is such that he won’t be recovering quickly enough to make the World Cup. We are looking at three to four weeks and thereafter, rehabilitation training will start before getting to match the fitness level. You can see that the situation is not good for him and for the team as well,” Rohr said.
“For a playing player to be ruled out of a major competition like the World Cup when he was already dreaming could be very devastating and the memory is not always a good one,” Nduka Ugbade had told THISDAY in an interview.
“I feel very sorry for Simon. I hope he would shake it away with time. But the truth is that it’s not a palatable experience. It was one I went through and till today, it still pained,” Ugbade said then.
He received his first call-up by Coach Daniel Amokachi in 2015 and made his debut in an international friendly against Uganda.
For Samuel Kalu, it may have been a shattered dream when Rohr did not look at their direction during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but it was a dream come true when he made his debut for the Super Eagles in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Seychelles last month.
Prior to the encounter, Kalu who stars for Bordeaux in France was keen to shine with the team, as he said: “I’m prepared to give everything to the Super Eagles. It’s my first call-up and I want to make the country proud. I’m expecting us to win the game and nothing more. It’s an important game that we cannot afford to lose. We have to work hard and do whatever we can to win the game.
“Kalu was very impressive all through the time he was on the field. He showed signs of a player that wants to earn a regular shirt in the team and with the way he played it is obvious he would be the one the players Rohr would be looking up to in future,” former Abiola Babes captain,Tajudeen Disu told THISDAY.
With the likes of Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho and Ogenyi Onazi failing to truly seize the opportunity to prove critics wrong, Kalu was the standout performer, playing 84 minutes of brilliant attacking football that won the heart of many fans back home.
The Bordeaux winger was lively from the blast of the referee’s whistle to his exit, with his pace troubling the Seychelles backline. His quick feet were too hot to handle, and he was fouled in the penalty area just before the hour mark which resulted in Ighalo’s converted effort.
Kalu’s deft touches on the ball were a joy to behold, while his dribbling and trickery were also impressive.
Kalu will have an opportunity to build on his early impact in the double-header against Libya today.