Whither to Nakamba? Marvelous Nakamba

Eddie Chikamhi-Senior Sports Reporter

FORMER Zimbabwe national team coach Joey Antipas says midfielder Marvelous Nakamba will need good counselling and strong motivation to rise from the massive career setback he is currently facing at English Premiership football club Aston Villa.

Nakamba, who turned 29 years-old last week, was left in a catch-22 situation after he was told by Aston Villa manager Unai Emery to pack his bags and leave the club.  

As if to back up his declaration that he does not need the Zimbabwean midfielder in his plans, Emery left out Nakamba from his victorious match day squad against Southampton on Saturday, opting to include two goalkeepers on the bench and two teenage players from the club’s development.

Sadly, Nakamba has not featured in any of Villa’s 20 English Premiership games this season.  

“It’s a sad development especially when you consider that Marvelous at some point, not so long ago, was the mainstay of this team under Gerrard,” said Antipas.  “Gerard spoke highly of him and played almost every game when he arrived at Aston Villa.

“But we must also understand that Emery is a new coach and it is normal for a coach to come in with new ideas and possibly a new set of players that he believes will help him achieve his goals,” said Antipas.

Emery, who took over for England great Steven Gerrard as Villa’s head coach in October of last year, is looking to improve his squad and Nakamba has always been a target for disposal despite holding a contract that runs through to June 2024.

Nakamba is one of the three players that have been put on the transfer list by the club, along with Frenchman Morgan Sanson and Swedish Ludwig Augustinsson.

The Warriors international signed for Aston Villa from Belgian giants Club Brugge for €12m in August 2019. The midfielder has made 58 EPL appearances since joining the club, 29 coming in his maiden season in the 2019/20 season.

He followed that up with 13 appearances the next season but has had to grapple with a series of injuries and loss of form.  Nakamba was a key figure in the early days of Steven Gerrard’s reign but a knee injury in December 2021 impacted heavily on his progress.   Nakamba, who had fallen out of favor with previous managers Dean Smith, Gerrard and his interim successor Aaron Danks, still found it difficult to get game time under Emery.

Last season Nakamba had 16 appearances but was yet to play a minute of English Premiership football this year, apart from a few friendly games during the World Cup break.

“It happens in a football career that at one point you are up and the next you are down. I think this is what is happening to Nakamba. But these are just phases which come and go.

“More than anything, I would think he needs counselling and good motivation. Marvelous is a professional, he still has more years of football ahead of him.

“Nakamba is one of the top players in the country. If the Warriors were to play a game today, he is obviously one player that the national team coaches would like to have in their team.

“So, it’s quite a difficult time for him. It can be such a heartbreak for any player. Just imagine, suddenly you cannot make the match day squad and you are told to leave.

“The last time we were reading that he was doing well and suddenly this. To be honest, I can’t blame Marvelous, neither do I blame the coach. The truth is we all don’t know what really happened with Nakamba ever since he came back from that injury,” said Antipas.

With the January transfer window set to close in a week’s time, Villa are yet to reveal offers for the player. The clock is also winding down on the wrong side of the 20s, which could make it difficult for Nakamba on the EPL market.

“He should hold his head up and look for new challenges elsewhere, if possible. He needed to get his confidence back. At 29, he can still play to is best and probably be at the peak of his career.

“A good footballer at that level always finds ways to get out of those kinds of situations and I am just hoping for the best for Marvelous,” said Antipas

Grassroots development coach Methembe Ndlovu believes the midfielder will bounce back from the setback. Nakamba is a product of Ndlovu’s famed Bantu Rovers, which has produced several professional players dotted across the globe.

“I think it’s part of the profession where you hit turbulent times but with time and hard work he will get back on his feet. He is a good player who is capable and I hope he will be strong enough to get back to his best,” Ndlovu told The Herald recently.

Nakamba is yet to reveal his next move. But since he has a running contract with Villa, he could still negotiate compensation for the remainder of his contract so that he leaves the club as a free agent.

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