Ahmed Musa

Nigeria has always been able to call upon a production line of exciting talent, from players like Segun Odegbami to Jay-Jay Okocha.

As the 2013 African Cup of Nations gets underway the latest graduate who could be the standard bearer of the Super Eagles' latest generation is Ahmed Musa.

The 20-year-old winger has just finished a first year at CSKA Moscow and is a player with bags of potential for the future.

Born in the former mining city turned conflict zone of Jos, Musa began his education with prestigious home town club Aminichi, before spending time on loan at JUTH FC as a 16-year-old. A year later, he would earn another temporary switch, this time to Kano Pillars, where his 18-goal haul sealed Musa's place in the record books for the most goals in a Nigerian league season, a feat last achieved two years before his birth. It was big stuff.

It was those 18 goals at Kano that have been the catalyst for all that’s happened so far. Musa, who was only at Aminchi Football Academy in Jos until 2008 got his chance to shine because of the departure of Pillars’ top striker Bello Musa Kofarmata. With Musa seemingly able to strike at will Pillars almost won the league as they came a close second to eventual champion Enyimba.

This feat earned him a call up into the Super Eagles Team B that contested and won the West African Football Union (WAFU) Cup held in Abeokuta in early 2010.
Playing at home in the WAFU Cup gave Musa an early taste of the pressures that come with playing in the national colours.

“Before the WAFU Cup we played a qualifier (CHAN) and lost. Many people then said in the papers these boys are no good. We showed them in the WAFU Cup that it’s just opportunities and chances that we need.

“When the papers say things you feel bad but just say that when I get my next chance then I’ll prove myself again. It’s good to read the papers because you feel challenged.

“It (WAFU Cup) was a great experience for me as a tournament. Daniel Amokachi encouraged me a lot and gave me great confidence to go out and play. He helped my game a lot, telling me how he used to go out and play. It was a challenge playing for him, but he’s a great coach both technically and encouraging.

Musa was one of a trio of home-based players given a call up to the Super Eagles World Cup camp by Lars Lagerback. An ankle injury meant he had to drop out of the final 30 before the final cut was made.

“It was a surprise to be called up for the early World Cup squad because I did not expect it at my age. I felt disappointed, but not too much because it I was injured and I just could not do it. I watched the World Cup I think if I was there I’d do better than that!!”

Musa later made his debut for the Super Eagles in the 2012 African Nations Cup qualifier against Madagascar.

By then Musa had hit the European trail Dutch Eredivisie minnows VVV-Venlo, as his remarkable rise continued. The promising forward had his arrival delayed due to FIFA red tape, but after turning 18, showed he was worth the wait by winning a crucial penalty minutes into his debut.

With a wise head on young shoulders, Musa said Venlo were the ideal club to start off with in Europe.

He said at the time. “For me I think at 18 Venlo is a good place to be. In two years time I know I’ll be somewhere else, but Venlo is a good place for me to start. By the grace of God I will make it and I am happy starting here.”

Musa quickly became the best player at Venlo, bagging braces against Ajax and Feyenoord en route to attracting a notable €10 million bid from an unnamed German club. The scouts kept coming, but it appeared Venlo would hold onto their man, until CSKA Moscow pulled off the notable coup of signing Musa for €4 million earlier in the January 2012 transfer window.

A year later Musa has adapted to a new country, a new language and a new league, but expect his key qualities to remain the same.

He’s a five foot seven inch winger with a skinny frame and long legs, but boasting electric pace and high-speed dribbling, he's an intimidating figure to face.

His pace may be his most natural and damaging asset, but it's Musa's desire to run directly at opponents to isolate them and force mistakes where he really flourishes, combing feet so quick he barely appears to be in control, added to good agility and balance, allowing him to drift past challenging defenders like they're not even there.

Although he is  right-footed, he can also play on the left. Musa is not an instinctive goalscorer, but his direct approach means he's always looking to cut inside, where the prospect often finds space in the box. His composure needs some work, but awareness of others and range of finishing is already advanced.

Add to that a good work rate, enough skills to get him out of trouble but not being too over flashy and a positive attitude, and Musa has a lot going for him.

Perhaps the one negative has been his physique which does need to bulk up so he is harder in 50:50 challenges and better tactical discipline.

Most important of all he’s shown in his short career an ability to make things happen, and that’s a quality the Super Eagles have had in short supply in recent times.

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