GLOBAL SOCCER: Samuel Kalu End of a Dream?

Samuel Kalu

His impressive performance with Gent of Belgium culminated in French side, Bordeaux, splashing €8 million on Samuel Kalu in the summer of 2018. Initially, the Nigerian prodigy did not disappoint. However, the 2019 AFCON bronze medalists’ performance so far this season has been lack-luster, managing just four starts in as many matches and the Ligue 1 side has decided to offload him in the January transfer window

When Nigerian international, Samuel Kalu moved from K AA Genk to French Ligue 1 side to replace Brazilian winger, Malcom, who had left for Spanish giants, Barcelona at the summer of 2018, he had a dream to take the French league by storm.

Though he indeed started on a high note and at a stage, made the Ligue 1 Player of the Week, but could not maintain the momentum as he fell in the pecking order of the Bordeaux team after just managing three goals in 26 games last season and one in 16 so far this season.

With just a few days to the commencement of the January transfer window, Nigerian international, Samuel Kalu could be leaving Ligue 1 for a new adventure in the Bundesliga or La Liga after he was an integral part of the Bordeaux squad when he first joined the team in August 2018 in a five-year deal.

But Kalu has lost his starting spot this term, having just four starts of the last 11 matches played by Bordeaux in Ligue 1 and is now considered surplus to requirement.

Kalu has been linked with a January move to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin. The German side’s new coach, Jurgen Klinsmann is said to be looking to the Nigerian to refresh his squad.

With former Chelsea and Ivory Coast winger Salomon Kalou and Bosnia’s Vedad Ibisevic expected to leave at the end of the season, Kalu is seen as the perfect candidates to replace them, while Spanish side, Real Betis are also said to be interested in taking the 22-year-old to Spain.

Kalu’s mark at Bordeaux might have been less than indelible but Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has praised him for his role in easing young forward and international teammate Josh Maja into the Bordeaux squad.
Rohr believes that the striker was able to settle quickly in France, thanks to his international teammate Kalu who played a big brother role.

”When he arrived in Bordeaux, he was not alone; there was another Nigerian, Samuel Kalu. So his integration, carried out in good working conditions and surrounded by a good staff, was facilitated,” Rohr noted.

The German tactician said he had been monitoring Kalu’s performances since his days at Gent where he struck a good understanding with Nigerian midfielder Moses Simon, but did not pick the player for the 2018 World Cup in Russia because he had good players in his role.

“I never selected him. I saw him play for his team. I took another, which is Simon Moses. He has been in my group since two years ago. He is also a winger, fast. He’s almost the same, but I found him better than Kalu,” the former Gabon manager said.

He added, “Samuel Kalu is a good dribbler, and he’s an overflowing winger. He’s explosive; he gives a lot of good balls. He overflows, he can play on both sides. I hope Bordeaux will have the satisfaction of seeing him evolve with these qualities.”

Reacting over the signing of Kalu by Bordeaux, club president Stephane Martin, revealed to French newspaper Sud Ouest, “He is a player that the recruitment team followed for a while. His choice was validated by Gustavo Poyet.”
Kalu moved to Ligue 1 champions after dazzling displays since joining the Ghelamco Arena outfit from AS Trencin in January 2016.

Kalu helped Gent qualify for the play-off by netting just after the restart, and his inclusion is particularly not surprising as he has been impressive since his arrival in Belgium.

For Kalu it may have been a shattered dream when Rohr did not look at his 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.

Prior to the encounter, Kalu 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.”

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.