Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
AN image of Tino Kadewere, on his first days at Swedish side Djurgaden in August 2015, has emerged and his striking boyish innocence hides the ruthless killer instincts he has displayed since exploding on the European scene.
The picture of a 19-year-old Kadewere, taken in the week he arrived in Sweden from Harare City, shows a different footballer to the confident goal-scoring monster he has become in the French second-tier league where he won the Golden Boot award last season.
The 24-year-old Zimbabwe international forward scored 20 goals in 24 matches for French Ligue 2 side, Le Havre, and was the clear winner in the Golden Boot race despite being sidelined, for a number of weeks, by injury.
He could have scored more had he not missed a couple of penalties while the season was also brought to a premature end after French authorities ruled that continuing with the football programme would endanger athletes in a period which the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kadewere appears overawed by the occasion, in the Djurgaden dressing room, looking every inch the raw teenager he was, who had just been plucked from a short spell at Harare City where his potential, to make the grade into European football, was first noticed by coach Moses Chunga.
The Swedish side had been charmed by another Zimbabwean forward, Nyasha Mushekwi, who illuminated the scene with his goal-scoring instincts, during a short loan spell at the club.
Kadewere will start the new season at French Ligue 1 side, Olympique Lyon, after sealing a four-and-half year US$16.5 million deal to move from Le Havre in January.
On Tuesday, Lyon ran a teaser, on their official Twitter account, asking fans, “Who’s excited to see Tino Kadewere in action for (Team Olympique Lyon?’’
And, that drew the interest of scores of Zimbabwean football fans who responded wishing the Warrior all the success at his new club.
“We can’t wait to see this gem on French soil,’’ said one of the respondents. “We the same nation that gave you Benjani Mwaruwari.’’
Kadewere scored 18 goals in 60 matches for Djurgaden, a good return for a young player in his first adventure into Europe, and that attracted the interests of Le Havre.
His explosion at Le Havre drew the interest of many clubs, including a few in the English Premiership, but it was Lyon, who eventually captured his signature.
Kadewere said he wanted to walk the path which saw the likes of Karim Benzema and Alexandre Lacazette, who used Lyon as a springboard to get into bigger clubs — Real Madrid and Arsenal.
“In Lyon, there were very good strikers, like Lacazette, Benzema . . . I want to do like Benzema, if it is possible.”
It’s the Lacazette path he appears to be following.
When Kadewere arrived in Europe five years ago, Lacazette scored 27 goals for Lyon in the season that ended in May that year, winning the Ligue 1 Player of the Year.
Two years later, the Frenchman signed a five-year deal with Arsenal for a then club record fee of an initial €53 million, with another €7 million to be added in potential bonuses.
It was the biggest transfer fee ever paid for a player from Lyon, as it beat the €41.5 million which Bayern Munich had paid for Corentin Tolisso.
It also eclipsed the previous record fee of €50 million which Arsenal had paid to secure Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid in 2013.
While Kadewere still has to prove himself at Lyon, who are desperate to win their first Ligue 1 title since 2008, with all their seven titles coming in consecutive years between 2002 and 2008, the Zimbabwean has already declared he dreams of even securing a deal with a bigger club in the future.
His management team appear to be following a perfect script.
While there were questions about their decision to take him into the French second-tier, from some quarters, when they took the gamble to take him to Le Havre, they had been impressed with the way the club has nurtured players for bigger teams.
They provided a home to some of the stars who went on to play for some major clubs in the world — Steve Mandanda went to Marseille, Benjamin Mendy went to Manchester City, Jean-Alain Boumsong went to Juventus, Souleymane Diawara went to Marseille, Patrick Chimbonda went to Tottenham, and Lassana Diarra went to Arsenal and Real Madrid.
Paul Pogba went to Manchester United and Juventus, and ended up breaking the world record transfer fee, Dimitri Payet went to Marseille and Riyad Mahrez ended up winning the league championship with Leicester City in England before a blockbuster move to Manchester City.
Now, the same management team have taken him to another club, Lyon, with a rich history of producing players for some of the heavyweight clubs in Europe.
They include Brazilian midfielder Juninho, Ghanian midfield powerhouse Michael Essien, French World Cup-winning captain, Hugo Lloris, who is now the Spurs skipper.
Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti, Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, Spurs forward Tanguy Ndombele, Manchester United forward and Anthony Martial are some of the high-profile players who have come through the Lyon ranks.
Interestingly, just like Lacazette in his early days at Lyon where he played as a winger before being switched into a central role as a striker, Kadewere also started off at Harare City playing wide on the flanks.
He was then pushed into the centre in Europe where he has been a regular goal-scorer.
It has been a dream five years for the former Prince Edward High School student.
He comes from a family which has produced a fair share of fine footballers who, had it not been for injuries which destroyed their dreams at crucial stages of their adventure, could have also made names for themselves.
It’s hard, looking at that picture of him in the Djurgaden dressing room five years ago, appearing as if he was being overawed by the occasion, to believe he would transform into this gunslinger who is now making waves in French football.