Robson Sharuko in CAIRO, Egypt
“The Smiling Assasin” turns 29 on Friday, is coming from a difficult initiation into the Anderlecht system, a season blighted by injuries and a loan move to a Belgian club that sank into relegation.
But, despite all that, he continues to be listed among the African football stars likely to use the 2019 AFCON finals as a springboard for a move to a bigger club.
Eight years after first arriving in Europe at Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, it’s a fair assessment to say the Warriors skipper has not set the scene alight, as was largely expected, when he landed in Germany from Kaizer Chiefs.
But, there is something about the Smiling Assassin, one of the best 10 performers in national team colours in African football today, he continues to attract massive interest among pundits who feel his star could not be fading, even as he now approaches 30, and could strike it big again.
Ahead of the 2019 Nations Cup finals, which explode into life here on Friday, Musona is being bracketed in the same elite company with the Ajax Amsterdam duo of goalkeeper Andre Onana of Cameroon and midfielder Hachim Ziyech of Morocco who could use the Nations Cup finals to get a better deal, and move to a bigger club.
Onana and Ziyeck were two of the most influential players for the Dutch giants as Ajax Amsterdam turned back the hands of time, to an era where they were one of the best clubs in Europe, by eliminating Real Madrid and Juventus on their way to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Ziyech, who scored a wonder goal in the 2-3 defeat to Tottenham in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final in Amsterdam, has already been linked with a US$25 million move to Arsenal.
While a number of online publications have emerged, around the world, including some without any substance at all, the 90MIN football website which listed Musona among the players likely to shake the AFCON finals, and break into a bigger club, are a very reputable one.
Headquartered in London, England, 90MIN is published in English, Germany, Spanish, Italian, French, Turkish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian to a global audience and has raised more than US$38.8 million from investors since it first came online in the very year Musona was completing his move to the Bundesliga. The website, which attracts more than 30 million viewers a month and has a content sharing agreement with such reputable newspapers like The telegraph, The Independent, GQ, USA Today, Huffington Post and the Mirror, says Musona could explode at this Nations Cup finals.
“When you think a name couldn’t get any better, Musona is more commonly referred to as “The Smiling Assassin”.
Fantastic nicknames aside, the Zimbabwean winger is attracting some attention from across Europe after beginning to establish himself in the Belgian leagues as something of a speed merchant,’’ the website says.
“Agile and capable of breezing past defenders, Musona has the tough task of facing off against Egypt, DR Congo and Uganda in his country’s AFCON group.
“Arguably, Onana is already at a major European side in Ajax, a club who won their domestic league and reached the Champions League semi-finals.
“Much of the Dutch club’s success this term is attributed to the 23-year-old former Barcelona goalkeeper, who has put “bigger” European sides on red alert after some superb displays in between the sticks.
“(Manchester) United have already been credited with making a failed bid for the stopper, and it looks set to be a period of uncertainty for his parent club, who will be desperate not to lose any more of their major stars this summer.’’
The website said exciting midfielder Ziyech, Baghdad Bounedjah of Algeria, Tanzanian hotshot striker Mbwana Samatta, who scored 32 goals, in 53 matches for Belgian top-flight side Genk en-route to winning the Best African Player in the league last season, Salif Sane of Senegal, Moussa Marega of Mali and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire could all explode at this Nations Cup finals.