Nigeria’s success at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations is yet to rub off on the players who had featured in the tournament not only to bring glory to their fatherland, but also with the hope of impressing big clubs.
It is an accomplished fact that the AFCON produces some of the continent’s best players to feature in some of Europe’s best clubs. Scouts seem to prefer recruiting from the tournament after seeing African players take on one another in their domain. To the scouts, it is probably the best way to assess raw talents before taking them to Europe for refining.
The 2013 AFCON did not disappoint in revealing talented footballers, but very few of the players gone on to sign for European clubs. The worst hits are the Super Eagles who won the tournament for the first time since 1994 with a relatively young squad.
The home-based players in the Nigeria squad – Sunday Mba, Ejike Uzoenyi, Azubuike Egwueke, Godfrey Oboabona and Chigozie Agbim – have yet to make any move abroad despite their heroics at the AFCON. Even the Europe-based players have failed to attract interest from bigger clubs, a situation which worries some Nigerian football pundits.
Perhaps the biggest money move involving an African player is the £12m transfer of Kenya’s Victor Wanyama from Celtic to Southampton. He did not even feature at the Nations Cup.
The other big moves are Kolo Toure’s crossover from Manchester City to Liverpool and Arouna Kone’s transfer from Wigan to Everton.
Unlike in the past when Nigeria’s success at the 1994 Nations Cup drew Europe’s attention to the players in that tournament and subsequent ones, this generation of players have benefitted close to nothing in terms of big transfers.
It remains to be seen if any Nigerian player would be rated as high as Austin Okocha when he joined Paris Saint-Germain from Fenerbahce for $17m in 1998.
Nigeria’s biggest stars, which include Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Osaze Odemwingie, are gradually losing respect in their respective clubs. While Mikel and Moses are linked with proposed moves away from Chelsea, Odemwingie is clearly not in West Bromwich Albion’s plan for next season.
Making a summer transfer is nothing new to the players, but moving from a bigger club to a less-fancied one calls to question the players’ quality. Mikel is linked by a mix of small and big clubs – Galatasaray and Monaco – but Moses was on the shopping list of Everton (a lesser club to Chelsea) and Odemwingie is still being courted by Dubai club Al Nasr, Crystal Palace, Fulham and Sunderland for a paltry sum.