The Sunday Mail
Robson Sharuko in CAIRO, Egypt
ENGLISH Premiership side Sheffield United have joined the gold rush to try and acquire the services of highly-rated Zimbabwe international midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, who boosted his growing profile with another standout performance here on Friday night.
The 25-year-old central midfielder was one of the best performers for the Warriors in their opening 2019 AFCON match against Egypt at the Cairo International Stadium, and looks set to move to another newly-promoted English Premiership side, Aston Villa, who were set to splash £20 million for his services.
Villa fans turned to Twitter to praise Nakamba’s strong performance, and urge their club to sign the midfield-er, amid soaring interest from other bidders, with Sheffield United – who have featured a Zimbabwean play-er before when Peter Ndlovu played for them – now among those who want his services.
Reports indicate that Villa will now have a battle on their hands to sign Nakamba, who will need a special dispensation to get a work permit to play in the Premiership.
A number of heavyweights are set to come bidding for his services after his fine show on Friday night.
Should the midfielder, who is also wanted in Italy and Turkey, turn on a similar show against Uganda on Wednesday, the reports indicate, it’s very likely that clubs with bigger financial muscles than Villa could come knocking on the doors of Belgian side Club Brugge to try and get Nakamba.
“Ooooh Marvelous Nakamba, what a player. Wow,’’ said one of the fans on Twitter.
Sources told The Sunday Mail Sport that Sheffield United, who are known as the Blades, joined the race to try and sign Nakamba before Friday night’s match.
“Sheffield United have also come on board and want to sign Marvelous but have been told that negotiations have been going on with Villa,’’ the sources said.
“Obviously, things can change quickly, especially with the Nations Cup unfolding and if the player does very well, there will be more suitors.
“Something will happen, no doubt about that.’’
Warriors’ leftback, Devine Lunga, who also had a fine performance in the first match against the Pharaohs, has also attracted the attention of three clubs in Turkey.
Lunga told The Sunday Mail Sport that he was only concentrating on doing well for the Warriors. He re-vealed that his mother had inspired him, on Friday morning, to serve his country well should he be handed the responsibility to play against the Pharaohs.
He described his match-up with Mohamed Salah as a dream come true and conceded that, while he had been nervous at the beginning, he grew into the game and was pleased with his performance, although he was disappointed with the defeat.
Thousands of Egyptian fans inside the stadium broke into a song, during the match, pleading with Khama Billiat to come and play for record CAF Champions League winners, Al Ahly.
But it appears all eyes are on Nakamba right now.
Shane Callaghan, writing for HITC, a reputable source of news and information on the web, said it appeared Villa had set their sights on a very good player.
“It looks like Aston Villa have set their sights on a quality footballer,’’ he wrote. “Zimbabwe lost their Africa Cup of Nations opener to Egypt but a reported Aston Villa target stole the show.
“The 25-year-old was stunning in and out of possession for his country and justified the reports about a £20 million price-tag.
“HITC Sport wrote earlier this week how Nakamba would give Dean Smith a formidable midfield, dovetailing with John McGinn and Jack Grealish.
“Worryingly, if Aston Villa are truly interested then performances like this aren’t what they want to see.
“Nakamba was watched by millions last night and it seems plausible that bigger clubs than the Villans may become involved if he continues to impress throughout the tournament.’’
And, The Birmingham Mail’s Alex Dicken also took time to take a closer look at Nakamba.
“The midfielder has earned rave reviews in Belgium with Club Brugge where he played alongside Villa new boy Wesley Moraes for two seasons,’’ he wrote.
“Nakamba is the midfield enforcer Villa need to replace Glenn Whelan and Mile Jedinak.
“Dean Smith (the Villa manager) tends to play with a three-man midfield, including two forward-thinking number eights – Jack Grealish and John McGinn – marauding in front of an anchorman.
“Nakamba’s strengths come in breaking up play and distributing the ball short.’’
And Belgian journalist, Aster Nzeyimana, told The Birmingham Mail Nakamba’s profile was rising.
“He was instrumental in the 2018 league title of Club Bruges,” he said. “He arrived at Bruges as the player with the highest number of ball recoveries in the Eredivisie.
“Unfortunately, this year’s been a year of injuries for him. He lost his place in the starting line-up because of injury.
“But it was clear from the start, when he arrived in June 2017, that he was bound for physically demanding leagues like England, Germany or France.”
The Birmingham Mail said Liverpool and Newcastle United have also been linked with Nakamba.