Robson Sharuko in Cairo, Egypt
HIGHLY-RATED Zimbabwe international midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, could hit the jackpot after attracting the interest of English Premiership side, Aston Villa, who appear ready to splash about £20 million to woo him from his base at Belgian giants, Club Brugge.
Newcastle, whose buying power is set to be boosted by the arrival of some wealthy Asian investors, have also been in the race to sign Nakamba.
Another ambitious club Watford, who reached the final of the FA Cup last season and were one of the most improved English Premiership teams, were the first to signal their intentions to sign the Zimbabwean midfield powerhouse.
However, Watford have been holding on to the move, waiting to see what happens to their French midfield star, Abdoulaye Doucoure, who has attracted the interests of French giants Paris St-Germain after a very impressive campaign in the English Premiership last season.
Italian Serie A side Atlanta Bergamasca, who took one of that country’s Uefa Champions League spots for next season, for the first time in their history, are also in the radar and waiting to swoop on Nakamba.
But, as of yesterday, it appears that it is former European champions Aston Villa, who returned to the English Premiership at the end of last season by winning the play-offs, are in pole position to acquire Nakamba’s services.
This could mean Friday’s opening 2019 Afcon finals opener between hosts Egypt and Zimbabwe could feature two players – Mohamed Elmohamady and Nakamba – who could be playing in Villa colours next season.
Sources have told our sister paper, The Herald, that Aston Villa were ready to get the deal done before the start of the Afcon finals but it appears Genk are now not ready to do so because there is a possibility Nakamba’s stock, and price, could rise if he has a very good tournament here.
“The English side, Villa, really want Marvelous but you know there are a number of issues at stake, one of them is the transfer fee, and with the Nations Cup finals about to start, his club believed a lot could change in the event their player sparkles at the tourney,’’ said the sources.
“This is normal in football dealing and the friendly match between Zimbabwe and Nigeria, which ended in a goalless draw, has also been a factor.
“Marvelous has a good game in that match and the Zimbabweans also impressed a lot of people, who ultimately have a say in these dealings, who then started to believe they could go on and have a very good Nations Cup finals.
“Right, when that happens, and hoping that is what will happen, it also means that the transfer fee for most of their players, who are being eyed by the big clubs will also rise and Marvelous’ Belgian club is well aware of that and that is why they don’t seem to be in a hurry to get this deal done with.
“But, you never know with football, and things can happen quickly because the key part, the club that wants the player, has shown, and continue to show, serious interest and that is crucial in such dealings.
“If it happens, it would be a very good move for Marvelous.’’
Aston Villa even know that they would have to secure a special permit from the English FA for them to complete the transfer and register Nakamba to play for them in the Premiership.
Right now, the midfielder does not qualify for an automatic work permit, in the event he moves to Villa, to be fielded in the Premiership because the Warriors are considered one of world football’s weaker nations.
However, English Premiership clubs can still be handed a reprieve to sign such players, in the event that they are exceptional talents, and Villa could point to the meteoric rise that Nakamba has enjoyed, since his arrival in Europe, as a signal that he is, indeed, a special talent.
The Zimbabwean star, one of those players expected to be the rock on which the Warriors’ long-term future now lies, won the league medal in the Dutch Cup with Virtese Arnhem before he went to Belgium where he won the league championship, with Club Brugge, in his first season.
Nakamba, who is in camp with the Warriors for the Afcon finals, could not be drawn to comment on the developments with the national team’s management saying he was simply focused on doing well for his country.
“We believe his focus right now is not on anything else except doing very well for his country and that’s what he is here for,’’ team manager, Wellington Mpandare.
“Of course, we understand he is a very, very good player and he will always attract interest from some of the major clubs but we can tell you that he just wants to do well for his national team and, hopefully, he will also remain injury-free because he is an important player for us.’’
Two years ago, Nakamba thrust himself into the global media spotlight after revealing his dreams of playing for six-time European champions, Liverpool, as he feasted in a cocktail of rave reviews which were triggered by his flying start to life in the Belgian top-flight league.
Belgium has become a springboard for many African players to leap into the lucrative English Premiership with Ivorian superstar, Yaya Toure, and his brother Kolo using that route in their journey to England.
“The 23-year-old has shown that as well as being a stopper in midfield, he is also technically gifted. Liverpool have been known in recent years to identify young players with great potential,’’ the 90 Min website reported back then.
“This would suit Fenway Sports Group, the owners of Liverpool, as their transfer policy is believed to surround buying potential for low costs to sell on for bigger fees.
“He has his eyes set on where he wants to be in the future — Premier League giants, Liverpool.
“At the rate the 23-year-old is going in the Belgian League, it won’t be long before he is looked at by Europe’s top clubs, and we may see the ‘Bulldozer’ in the Premier League sooner rather than later.’’