Talent Scout: Ahmed Musa, CSKA Moscow
Saturday 14 January 2012
From Rashidi Yekini to Finidi George, Jay-Jay Okocha to Nwankwo Kanu, Nigeria has always been able to call upon a production line of exciting talent. Yet as the 2012 African Cup of Nations gets underway next week, the Super Eagles' omission from the continent's football showpiece represents a product of the disorganisation that threatens to ruin a whole generation of Nigerian players.
The job to unite the split Football Association and bring the national team back to the top falls to legendary centre half Stephen Keshi, a man not seen as the ideal choice, but the best value for money by his employers. Part of Keshi's new plan for building a bright future involves recruiting young European-based players with dual nationality, such as Newcastle powerhouse Shola Ameobi, Wigan flyer Victor Moses and Arsenal teenager Chuks Aneke.
They all promise to be good options for Keshi, but the real backbone to his new-look side must come from players who have already come through the system, such as 19-year-old winger Ahmed Musa, newly acquired by Russian outfit CSKA Moscow and a player with bags of potential for the future.
Yet look beyond his tender age, and Musa is a prospect who already boasts notable achievements in the game, and comes with a raw freshness that could be the perfect ingredient to Keshi's new mixture.
Born in the former mining city turned conflict zone of Jos, Musa began his education with prestigious home town club Aminichi, before spending time on loan at JUTH FC as a 16-year-old. A year later, he would earn another temporary switch, this time to Kano Pillars, where his 18-goal haul sealed Musa's place in the record books for the most goals in a Nigerian league season, a feat last achieved two years before his birth. It was big stuff.
So much so that plucky Musa was then sold to Dutch Eredivisie minnows VVV-Venlo, as his remarkable rise continued. The promising forward had his arrival delayed due to FIFA red tape, but after turning 18, showed he was worth the wait by winning a crucial penalty minutes into his debut.
Musa would go on to show his ability in front of goal too, bagging braces against Ajax and Feyenoord en route to attracting a notable €10 million bid from an unnamed German club. The scouts kept coming, but it appeared Venlo would hold onto their man, until CSKA Moscow pulled off the notable coup of signing Musa for €4 million earlier in the transfer window.
The 19-year-old must now adapt to a new country, a new language and a new league, but expect his key qualities to remain the same.
Musa is a five foot seven inch winger with a skinny frame and long legs, but boasting electric pace and high-speed dribbling, he's an intimidating figure to face.
His pace may be his most natural and damaging asset, but it's Musa's desire to run directly at opponents to isolate them and force mistakes where he really flourishes, combing feet so quick he barely appears to be in control, added to good agility and balance, allowing him to drift past challenging defenders like they're not even there.
A right-footed right winger who can also play on the left, Musa is not an instinctive goalscorer, but his direct approach means he's always looking to cut inside, where the prospect often finds space in the box. His composure needs some work, but awareness of others and range of finishing is already advanced.
Add to that a good work rate, enough skills to get him out of trouble but not being too over flashy and a positive attitude, and Musa has a lot going for him.
However, he still remains quite raw, and that's perhaps why Europe's top clubs were not prepared to put their money where their scouts were this winter. Musa needs to bulk up physically to avoid losing 50:50 skirmishes so easily, be more tactically disciplined and learn to be less reliant on consistently cutting inside, being prepared to hug the touchline and use his left foot more.
Overall though, Musa is a really good prospect. A small, fast, direct and confident winger with good balance, awareness and trickery, if he can develop into a more natural wideman and be more composed in front of goal, he can become exactly the type of player Nigeria and CSKA need to fulfil their potential.
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