Robson Sharuko in CAIRO, Egypt
IN the week the reputation of the Zimbabwe Warriors was dragged through the mud because of match-fixing allegations slowly turning out to have been without any basis, Marvelous Nakamba, must have been cheered to see himself being praised for his hard work and honesty in Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper yesterday.
The 25-year-old midfielder, whose 2019 AFCON finals show was disrupted by injury which saw him play only one game against Egypt, in which he was one of the most impressive Warriors in a losing cause, is being chased by a number of European clubs with English Premiership side Aston Villa leading the way.
Nakamba has made it clear he wants to leave Belgian side, Club Brugge, for fresh challenges and this has attracted interest from England, Germany and Italy.
Villa — who returned to the English Premiership for the forthcoming season — are said to be in pole position to secure his signature, but face competition from the likes of Newcastle and Sheffield United.
Club Brugge appear ready to let Nakamba go, but had been gambling on the midfielder turning on a good show, at this AFCON finals, to boost his transfer value and might have been disappointed that the Zimbabwean ended up featuring in only one game.
It is believed Bundesliga newcomers, Hertha Belin, have joined the race to get Nakamba but might be handicapped by the financial muscle of their rivals.
However, while it was first reported that Villa were set to pay £25 million for him, the latest reports in England yesterday suggested that they were now looking at getting him for £6m, which most of them said would be a bargain buy for them, although Club Brugge are likely to resist that.
Villa have already spent £50m on acquiring new players since their return to the Premiership was confirmed via winning the play-offs.
And, Nakamba’s cause received a huge boost yesterday when Bayer Leverkusen manager, Peter Bosz, who took Ajax Amsterdam to the Europa League final where they lost to Manchester United, told Germany’s biggest circulating newspaper, Bild, that the midfielder was a worthy investment.
“Nakamba is a boy who brings a lot of energy into the game. He is strong and a winner,” Bosz said.
“With his honest and aggressive style of play, he would fit well in England.”
Bosz managed Nakamba at Dutch club Virtese Anherm.
Nakamba, who is now being compared with Chelsea and Belgian star N’Golo Kante, will certainly be cheered to read such a highly-regarded coach praising him for honesty after the turmoil of a week in which the reputation of the Zimbabwe national team players was dragged through the mud.
Warriors’ team manager Wellington Mpandare warned on Thursday that the accusations which were being lumped on the players, without providing any evidence to back the claims, were likely to affect those who were set to do some business in transfers in Europe.
‘’You can’t just wake up and scream that the players did such outrageous things, without any evidence to back such claims, because this can affect their reputations at their clubs and I feel sorry for those who are seeking better fortunes, especially in Europe, because such things have a tendency to affect the appeal of the players,’’ said Mpandare.
“Integrity and honesty is valued by top football clubs around the world and it’s as important as the talent of the players and we are destroying our boys through such malicious allegations, especially what I have seen on social media coming from people, including journalists, who should know better.
“We are creating a situation where, in future, some of these boys will ask themselves if it’s worthwhile to come and serve their nation because, no matter the sacrifice they put, in the end they will be painted as a people who have no honesty and integrity without any evidence to back such claims.’’
There are reports Nakamba has been frustrated that the move to Villa appear to have cooled this week and one just hopes that isn’t related to the allegations that surfaced in Madagascar.
“Bosz’s verdict is a boost for Villa, as Dean Smith’s side look to bring in a holding midfielder that can replace the loss of duo Whelan and Jedinak,’’ The Boot Room reported yesterday.
“For just £6million and the backing of a manager who has taken Ajax to the Europa League final and managed Dortmund in the Champions League, Nakamba is an excellent buy.
“A potential £6 million move is still uncertain, however, with HLN (a Belgian media outlet) claiming this week that Nakamba has been left frustrated about the fact that a mooted switch to the Premier League, Villa Park in particular, is yet to materialise.
“He certainly would.
“Nakamba is an old-school ball-winning midfielder, not too dissimilar to N’Golo Kante. And he’d offer plenty of steel and energy in an Aston Villa midfield more renowned for its inspiration than its perspiration.
“’Bosz knows best.’’
Nakamba, according to the European media reports yesterday, is “a tough-tackling and hard-working midfielder, (who) neutralised the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Marco Reus in last season’s Champions League and he’d provide a sheet of steel at the heart
of an exciting and ball-playing Aston Villa midfield’’.