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Goal Nigeria Player of the Year Nominee: Ahmed Musa

COMMENT
By Kolade Oni

2014 will rank among the best years in Ahmed Musa’s football career despite his inability to lead the Super Eagles to the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. Musa achieved so much on a personal note that will take years for him to surpass and his place in the Goal Nigeria Player of the Year shortlist for the 2014 edition and his selection by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) in the race for the continent’s top star of the current year are clear testimonies to the growing profile of the Aminchi Football Academy of Jos graduate.

The striker, born on October 14, 1992, started his great fortune in football when he joined Kano Pillars on loan from Aminchi Football Academy in the 2009/2010 season after he spent two seasons with JUTH FC. With Pillars he emerged as the player with the most goals in a league season in only his first season with the club. He scored 18 goals to break the former record jointly held by Ishaya Jatau and Akarandut Orok. Both had 17 goals. Musa’s record was subsequently broken by Jude Aneke a season later after the striker fired 20 goals for Kaduna United.

Musa was transferred to VVV Venlo in 2010 and he saved his new club from the clutches of relegation in May, 2011 after his brace against Feyenoord in a 3-2 win ended any fears of relegation from the Dutch top flight.

He is not new to receiving accolades and awards having been rated by Goal in 2010 among the Hot 100 young football stars in the world to watch in 2011 and the website followed that up with his inclusion in the list of Top 10 Nigerian international Players of 2010. He was also included in IFFHS list of the best 140 players in the world same year.

The former Pillars attacker represented Nigeria at the 2011 Fifa U20 World Cup in Colombia where his three goals helped the Flying Eagles to get to the quarter final before bowing out to France 3-1 after extra time.

After Venlo rebuffed several advances of clubs interested in the signing of Musa, the Dutch Club agreed to sell the Nigerian to CSKA Moscow on January 7, 2012 and has aided the Russian side’s back to back victory in the league and even won a domestic double in his first season with the Army team.

World Cup hero | Scored two tantalising goals against Argentina

Musa's international career has also been smooth sailing with the Super Eagles since his romance started in 2010 under coach Lars Lagerback when he was called up to the senior national team camp ahead of the South Africa 2010 World Cup but was forced out of the Eagles’ 30 man provisional squad due an ankle complaint.

'The Rocket' made his debut for the Eagles on August 5, 2010 in a qualification match for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations against Madagascar as a second half substitute for John Mikel Obi in a 2-0 win. He bagged his first goal for Nigeria in a March, 2011 friendly against Kenya and he featured for the Eagles in the South Africa 2013 Africa Cup of Nations where Nigeria emerged victorious after a 1-0 win over Burkina Faso in the final. Musa scored a goal in the competition’s semi final clash with Mali which the Nigeria won 4-1. He has scored nine goals in 42 games for the Eagles at just 22 years old.

Musa started all Nigeria’s three matches at the 2013 Fifa Confederation Cup held in Brazil after the Eagles were bundled out in the group stage. He was rewarded with a slot among the 23 players that represented Nigeria at the 2014 Fifa World Cup hosted by Brazil after he participated in all Eagles’ qualifying matches. He repaid the Eagles’ boss, Stephen Keshi’s confidence after he scored two breathtaking goals in the team’s final Group F match against Argentina where the South Americans pipped Nigeria 3-2.

 Sudan's nemesis | Musa scored twice against the Falcons of Jediane in Abuja

He also scored a brace in the Eagles' 3-1 defeat of Sudan during their failed campaign for the 2015 Afcon. His goals gave a glimmer of hope to Nigeria but the team failed to sparkle when it mattered most as they dropped valuable points against South Africa and missed the opportunity to defend their title next year.

Having excelled at both club and international levels, Musa deserves his place among the top five Nigerian players vying for the Goal Nigeria Player of the Year award and it won’t be a major surprise if he is able to beat his major challenger, Vincent Enyeama to the top prize.

He had a fantastic World Cup in Brazil just like the skipper and has been firing on all cylinders for the Eagles and his club, CSKA Moscow since the end of the World Cup.

His sizzling 82nd minute goal for CSKA on September 17, 2014 in a Uefa Champions League 5-1 away defeat to AS Roma, where he left two defenders sprawling on the floor before chipping the ball over goalkeeper, is still being talked about in Europe.

The award would be a great reward for the young man's hard work.