BY MICHAEL KARIAT
EVERY coach has his choice of players for the type of game he wants his team to play and Marvelous Nakamba is fortunate that in Liverpool legend Steven Gerard he has found a coach, who truly believes in his ability.
Gerard has a liking for Nakamba’s combative midfield style and since the former Liverpool and England captain arrived at Aston Villa, the Zimbabwean has been more visible in the claret and blue colours of the club.
With increasing first-team appearances, Nakamba has gained the confidence, which had been lost under the departed Dean Smith, who seemed to continuously prefer players who were losing games week-in and week-out.
It would be wrong to blame Smith for Nakamba’s lack of game time during his era since Smith himself had a system of play that he felt suited the players he fielded and the results, unfortunately, cost him his job.
What, however, is ironic is the fact that it is the same Smith who splashed out a cool £11 million and £65 000 a week in wages to lure the Zimbabwean from top Belgian outfit Club Brugge only to keep him on the bench.
That is what football is all about — crazy-at-times — and the departure of Smith coupled by the arrival of Gerard has opened up new horizons for Nakamba and it is now up to the Zimbabwean to use the opportunity presented to prove his worth.
The general view is that Gerard has gone back to England and to Aston Villa — after a successful stint at Glasgow Rangers in Scotland — as a stepping stone towards the destination he so much wants to reach.
It is suspected that Gerard is building or setting himself up for a future at Liverpool and might decide to take Nakamba with him to the Reds when the time comes — that is if the Zimbabwean improves a bit in his play.
That time for Gerard at Liverpool is not looking far away considering what he did at Glasgow Rangers — what he is doing at Aston Villa — and more importantly, the fact that Jurgen Klopp has stayed long enough at Anfield.
The fact is that Klopp is idolised at Liverpool but having won the Premiership and the Uefa Champions League, his future might not be guaranteed should he not win one of the two titles in the next two seasons.
From the outside, Gerard looks like the possible heir to Klopp. He is a cult hero at the Reds and obviously, Liverpool is monitoring his managerial progress with interest and Nakamba needs to continue turning on the style for the prospects ahead.
So far the Zimbabwean has been superb in winning the ball, he has improved greatly in his ball distribution, but sadly, he has not tried hard enough to score goals, something he needs to do if he has that Liverpool dream.
Only one Zimbabwean, Bruce Grobbelaar played for this great club and along with Benjani Mwaruwari who played for Manchester City, they are the only two footballers from this land to play for clubs with glamour both in England and Europe.
Fine, when Norman Mapeza featured for Galatasaray in 1994/95, the Turkish club was far ahead of Man City, but times have changed and the Citizens are now way too big in glamour compared to Galatasaray.
That is as far as we can go in terms of club comparisons but the whole of Zimbabwe is following Aston Villa with keen interest and that is due to the Nakamba factor.
The club commands massive popularity in Zimbabwe to the extent that their replica jerseys are visible everywhere on the streets and in places where football fans gather to watch English football on television, especially on days when the club is in action.
However, in all this excitement, Zimbabweans also feel a bit disappointed with Nakamba and believe he owes them big time as he has not been able to turn on the same style when playing for his national team — the Warriors.
It is not a secret that the fans love Nakamba but he will only earn their full respect when he delivers in the national team in the manner the likes of Peter Ndlovu, Khama Billiart and Knowledge Musona, did or have done when on national duty.
Although Nakamba has played for other internationally recognised clubs such as Vitesse in the Netherlands and Club Brugge in Belgium, he has barely been recognisable when donning his Zimbabwe national team jersey.
He has looked ordinary and at times out of sorts and jittery and it has been Jordan Zemura of championship side Bournemouth, who instead, has looked more like coming from a premiership club rather than Nakamba.
The truth is that Nakamba might play for the best or biggest clubs in the world, but he will never have his name among the greatest players to come out of this land as long as he does not sparkle for the Warriors.
The names of Peter Ndlovu, Billiat, Musona, Benjani Mwaruwari, Grobbelaar, Mapeza, and Esrom Nyandoro, are forever on the fans’ lips not because of what they did for their clubs, but for their national team.
The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon presents Nakamba with the opportunity to propel Zimbabwe to the second round for the first time in Afcon history and his own place in the archives.
The Warriors are in the same group with Guinea, Malawi, and Senegal, a group which Zimbabwe can negotiate its way through should Nakamba come to the party — with his best suit.
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