Nigeria’s unlikely hero in the final of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, Sunday Mba, has said he hopes he has done enough to earn a dream move to Europe.
On Sunday in Johannesburg, the 24-year-old Warri Wolves forward scored the goal that ended Nigeria’s 19-year wait for a continental glory as they won their third Nations Cup trophy at the expense of Burkina Faso.
In the 1994 final in Tunisia, Emmanuel Amuneke came off the bench to fire two goals past Zambia and give the Super Eagles their second Nations Cup triumph after they first won the tournament on home soil in 1980.
Amuneke, who was then playing for top Egyptian side Zamalek, would subsequently move to Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon and eventually Barcelona.
“I hope I can also get a deal in Europe after what I achieved at the Nations Cup,” said the former Nigeria U17 star, who was also the match winner against star-studded Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals of the competition.
His exploits have already sparked off interest from top German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen.
In 2008, he was close to teaming up with Spanish lower league side Elche, but the deal collapsed after his local club, Enugu Rangers, demanded too much money.
“A transfer abroad is the next step for his career after his decisive goals capped a very decent tournament for him,” said Nigerian football agent Vincent Alumona, who was behind the player’s move to Spain five years ago.
“However, this could be tricky. The window in western Europe is shut, but there are still opportunities in places like Ukraine and Russia. And that is where the dilemma for Mba lies. To move now or wait till the next window in Germany, Spain or France opens in July?
“He will need good advisers to make a decision about this. And whatever he chooses would surely shape his career for the next two, three years.”
What would a European club be getting if they sign Mba?
He is a skillful, hard working player who could play deep in midfield, as a second striker or even as the top striker.
He shot to national prominence early last year when he scored twice for the Eagles in an international friendly in Liberia.
He took his chance in South Africa when the highly-rated Nosa Igiebor from La Liga outfit Real Betis struggled.
The former Enyimba star would go on to play a very deep role in the middle, using his big engine to graft for Chelsea star Mikel Obi and also having enough strength to move forward to score his two tournament-defining goals.
But the only drawback for Mba is that at 24, he is a little too long in the tooth for a big breakthrough in Europe.