’TANA AIYEJINA takes a look at the movements and activities of Nigerian stars in the January transfer window in this report
They may not make big money or high-profile moves akin to the likes of Alexis Sanchez’s celebrated switch from Arsenal to Manchester United; Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona), and Virgil van Dijk, who joined the Reds from Southampton for £75m, a record amount for a defender. Some Nigerian players have however made some moves from one club to the other in the January transfer window. While striker Anthony Ujah tops the charts on his return to former club Mainz 05 from China in a deal worth €3m, little-known Dominic Vinicius and Fred Friday also made moves in the transfer window worth millions of Euros.
Manchester City midfielder Chidiebere Nwakali has joined Aberdeen on loan until the end of the season. The deal is reportedly worth €600,000.
The 21-year-old Nigeria youth international, who has been with City since 2014 and has had previous loan spells in Spain and Norway, joined up with the Dons at their winter training camp in Dubai.
According to the Scottish club, Nwakali’s signing fills the gap in the squad opened by Greg Tansey’s loan move to Ross County.
“Manchester City have been very keen for Chidi to get some competitive game time and it’s a deal we’ve been working on for a couple of months now,” manager Derek McInnes told the club website.
“I’m sure he will be a positive addition to our squad.”
An U-17 World Cup winner in 2013, Nwakali scored four goals in 26 appearances for Sogndal in last year’s Tippeligaen.
He previously had loan spells at Girona, Malaga, IK Start and Sogndal, due to difficulties in obtaining a work permit in England.
In November 2017, he earned his first call-up to Nigeria’s senior team but was not used in the 2018 World Cup qualifying matches against Algeria and Argentina.
After earning megabucks in China, Nigeria international Anthony Ujah has returned to Germany for a second spell at Bundesliga side Mainz 05 on a contract that runs till 2021. The deal is reportedly worth €3m.
Ujah joined Mainz, who he played for in the 2011/12 season, from Chinese Super League outfit Liaoning FC for an undisclosed three-and-a-half years deal.
After his first spell at Mainz, the 27-year-old transferred to FC Cologne, where he spent three years, and his 36 goals in 102 appearances for the Billy Goats earned him a move to Werder Bremen where, he scored 14 times in 37 competitive duels.
In the summer of 2016, he moved to China to team up with Liaoning.
Ujah joins Super Eagles teammate and defender, Leon Balogun, at Mainz but in a twist of fate, both players were racially abused during a Bundesliga clash against Hannover 96 on January 13.
“I’m taken aback by what Leon Balogun and Anthony Ujah had to experience on Saturday,” Mainz’s sports director Rouven Schroder said in a statement on the club’s website.
“It’s unfathomable that players in the Bundesliga still face racial discrimination to this day. 1. FSV Mainz 05 stand together with their players in the fight against racism and all forms of discrimination.
“Our common goal must be to remove all forms of racism, hate and xenophobia from Germany’s stadiums once and for all.”
Defender Abdullahi Shehu has joined Turkish Super Lig club Bursaspor for €600,000 in a two-and-a-half-year deal from Anorthosis Famagusta. Reports say he will earn €200,000 annually in salaries.
The 24-year-old, who previously played in Kuwait and Portugal, joins compatriots William Troost-Ekong, Mikel Agu and Paschal Okoli at Bursaspor, who are managed by former Cameroon boss Paul Le Guen.
He joined Anorthosis Famagusta from Portuguese club União da Madeira in September 2016. In the final year of his contract in Cyprus, he was strongly linked with a move to English championship side Birmingham City but perhaps opted for topflight football as he eyes a World Cup place.
The versatile player featured in five matches as Nigeria clinched bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympic football tournament.
He played all eight games as the Super Eagles sealed 2018 World Cup qualification, but made headlines when he cost his team three points and a $ 6,000 fine from world football body FIFA, after it emerged that he was ineligible to play in the final game against Algeria.
He played the entire match against the Algerians even though he should have been suspended for picking up yellow cards in two previous qualifiers.
Out-of-favour Super Eagles midfielder, Nosa Igiebor, has moved to Anorthosis Famagusta on an €800,000 deal, after being released by MLS side Whitecaps FC last December.
The former Hapoel Tel Aviv of Israel midfielder joined the Canada-based team in October 2017, but the club declined the option of giving him a new deal.
A box-to-box midfielder, Igiebor joined Whitecaps in September 2017 after over 300 professional appearances under his belt, including two seasons in Spain’s La Liga and 25 combined appearances in the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League.
After joining Whitecaps late in the season, Igiebor made his debut as a starter at Portland Timbers and went on to start both legs of the Western Conference semi-final against Seattle Sounders. In just his third match in a Whitecaps jersey in the decisive leg, Igiebor led the team with 89 touches and 67 successful passes, both season-highs for any player of the club.
The 27-year-old midfielder, who joined Vancouver Whitecaps from Turkish side Rizespor, made three appearances for the MLS side.
Striker Fred Friday has joined Dutch club Sparta Rotterdam on loan from AZ Alkmaar for the rest of the season in a deal worth €1m. In July 2016, Friday moved from Lillestrøm, where he scored 18 goals in 37 league games, to Dutch Eredivisie side, AZ Alkmaar, on a four-year contract last season.
The 22-year-old joined AZ Alkmaar from Lillestrom of Norway in 2016 and scored 18 goals in 37 league appearances for the club, prompting interest in his services from other clubs.
Though yet to be capped by Nigeria, Friday is highly rated in Europe. Former Netherlands coach and Sparta Rotterdam’s technical adviser, Leo Beenhakker, told the club’s website, “Fred was at the top of our list to reinforce the attack and we are glad that we have now made it official and he will join us.”
Born in Sao Paolo to a Nigerian father and Brazilian mother, powerful striker Vinicius is largely unknown in Nigeria but he made history with his recent €1.7m move from Vejle Boldklub to Chinese club Beijing Enterprises Group FC, which made him the most expensive player ever sold by the Danish clkub.
He joins two other Nigerians – Victor Anichebe and Leke James – at the Chinese club.
The 23-year-old attacker had his football breakthrough at Boldklub, where he played for a year and a half, scoring 24 goals in 46 matches.
After joining Atlético Paranaense in 2012, he helped the Brazilian club win an international U-20 tournament in Switzerland, after beating Benfica in the final. Earlier in his career, he also played for Brazilian clubs Cuiabá and Portuguesa.
He has indicated interest in representing Nigeria at senior level.
Arsenal youngster Kelechi Nwakali has rejoined Dutch second-tier outfit, MVV Maastricht, on loan till the end of the season.
The 19-year-old was on parade for Dutch Eredivisie side VVV-Venlo for the first part of the season but was limited to game time with just nine league appearances and a goal to his name.
Nwakali, who has a contract with the Gunners till the summer of 2021, would be aiming to replicate his form in the 2016/17 season, where he was vital in Ron Elsen’s team, with two goals in 29 appearances.
The midfielder is expected to add spice to Maastricht’s midfield as they currently sit in 12th spot in the Eerste Division table with 26 points from 21 games – eight points from the promotion play-offs spot.
The deal is worth €300,000.
Defender Gbenga Arokoyo is determined to get his career back on track after joining MLS club Atlanta United on €500,000, after returning from a long injury layoff.
Signed by the Portland Timbers on August 2, 2016, Arokoyo, 25, made one regular-season appearance before suffering a season-ending injury during pre-season ahead of the 2017 MLS campaign.
Prior to signing with Portland, Arokoyo played over 90 matches in Europe, featuring in Sweden and Turkey after beginning his professional career in Nigeria.
He spent three seasons at Swedish side Mjällby AIF, made 56 appearances and scored once before sealing a move to Turkish Süper Lig club Gaziantepspor in 2014.
He played two seasons with Gaziantepspor, producing one goal and three assists in 40 appearances, leading to a switch to Timbers.
A former U-20 star, he made his senior debut against Mali in a friendly in 2016 and also played against Luxembourg four days later.
Lokomotiv Plovdiv have signed Nigeria international Stephen Eze on a two-year deal from Kano Pillars.
Pillars confirmed the departure of the defender, who is representing Nigeria at the ongoing African Nations Championship, to the Bulgarian topflight side.
The 23-year-old, who moved to Sai Masu Gida prior to the commencement of the 2017/18 season, has represented Sunshine Stars, Lobi Stars and FC IfeanyiUbah in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Lokomotiv Plovdiv also confirmed that the defender would join the rest of the team in February after the CHAN tournament in Morocco.
“FC Lokomotiv signed a contract with Nigeria national Stephen Eze. He will become an official black-and-white player from February 2018. The term of the contract is for a period of two years,” read a statement on the club’s website.
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