South Africa international Dino Ndlovu did not only write his name in Azerbaijani folklore with a goal against Danish outfit F.C Copenhagen which sent Qarabag through to the Uefa Champions League group stages for the first time in the nation’s history.
Although, Ndlovu proudly boasts an impressive goalscoring record of 38 goals in 61 starts, that has not been enough to earn him a call up to Stuart Baxter’s team as the Briton has previously stated that Ndlovu is not plying his trade in the strongest of leagues.
However, following Qarabag’s remarkable qualification and with the 27-year-old the only South African registered for the 2017/18 Champions League, Baxter is once again paying close attention to the forward’s performances as he closes in on a recall to the national team.
“I have said before that the league he (Ndlovu) is playing in is probably not the best in the world, but if a player is scoring it builds confidence. That’s why I have had him checked out in the Champions League, and that league is a good league,” Baxter told The Star.
“A former Juventus scout saw him against Copenhagen, in Copenhagen, so I got a good report on him and the game before in Qarabag because I had a scout down there that was watching the game for Arsenal,” Baxter added.
Ndlovu’s exclusion from the current Bafana Bafana squad has left many questioning Baxter’s thinking, considering South Africa’s goal scoring woes, but the 64-year-old stated that he did not want to throw Ndlovu into the deep end right away.
“I contacted Dino after the first game and we had a chat where I told him he is very close (to being called up). I told him he didn’t make the Cape Verde camp because it was (announced) before the second game,” he said.
“I said I don’t want to make any more changes to what I am making at the moment. I don’t want to throw all the preparation for Nigeria away, but certain changes will be made. He was good with that and said he was going to keep working.
“If we were playing one World Cup qualifier followed by a friendly, Dino would have been in the squad because I would have wanted to see him, but not throw him under so much pressure.”
Furthermore, the national team coach also explained what he saw in the scouting reports.
“In both reports, they were talking about hard work, getting into the box and getting to finish off the goals. What I also liked about those games was his willingness to work in behind the defence,” Baxter explained.
"Before he would go, but not be very effective. He is improving. The scout told me he worked very much on his own, without a lot of support, but he was holding the ball and playing it back.
“That was interesting because we have very few. (Tokelo) Rantie is one that works the spaces best and Bradley (Grobler) is a link player, otherwise we don’t really have. Even though we have a lot of pacey players, no one really wants to run in there. In SA we want the ball to our feet.
“He went to Israel and did well, didn’t he? Everywhere else he has been he does well. Maybe he just thrives in a structured environment because when he was in the PSL, and I know the game has developed since and the coaches coach better, he didn’t know his role,” he continued.
"I didn’t see the before and after. I can only see the stats, that he scores goals there and not here, hence maybe SuperSport were not satisfied with their investment,” he said.
Ndlovu’s first taste of Champions League action will be at Stamford Bridge where the Azerbaijani Champions will take on the English Premier League Champions next week Tuesday.
“He could have a great game at Stamford Bridge and maybe dispel this argument that the Azerbaijan league is not so great. He has a good game there and he is probably gone to a bigger club in Europe. I sent him a text to say he must enjoy it and he replied saying they are going to enjoy being underdogs,” Baxter concluded.