Aston Villa are on the verge of making Zimbabwe international Marvelous Nakamba their 11th summer signing.
The midfielder has earned rave reviews in Belgium with Club Brugge where he played alongside Villa new boys Bjorn Engels and Wesley Moraes.
And he’s poised to complete his move to Villa Park for a fee of £11million.
Nakamba was born in Hwange and played for a local team called Highlanders before joining Bantu Rovers and making his first team debut at 16.
The 25-year-old was snapped up by Nancy in 2012 and spent two years in France primarily playing for their second string.
A move to Vitesse Arnhem in 2014 provided Nakamba with his breakthrough and the midfielder made 67 Eredivisie appearances in three seasons at the GelreDome.
Nakamba was transferred to Club Brugge in 2017 and starred as they won the Belgian title in his first season.
“He was instrumental in the 2018 league title of Club Brugge,” says Belgian journalist Aster Nzeyimana. “He arrived at Bruges as the player with the highest number of ball recoveries in the Eredivisie.”
His success hasn’t come as a surprise to those who watched him at Bantu Rovers as a tiny teenager. Former Zimbabwean footballer Methembe Ndlovu told ESPN: “I am not surprised. I am delighted for him, absolutely, but I think not surprised.
“He was always, in my view, a player with potential beyond Zimbabwe. It was clear, at least to me early on that he had that potential.”
Nakamba is a midfield enforcer who is equally comfortable holding or marauding between boxes.
Dean Smith tends to play with a three-man midfield including two forward-thinking number eights – Jack Grealish and John McGinn – operating in front of an anchorman.
Nakamba’s strengths come in breaking up play and distributing the ball short.
“Unfortunately this year’s been a year of injuries for him,” Nzeyimana adds. “He lost his place in the starting line up because of injury.
“But it was clear from the start, when he arrived in June 2017, that he was bound for physically demanding leagues like England, Germany or France.”
Villa aren’t the first English team to show interest in Nakamba with Liverpool and Newcastle United both previously linked.
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What’s been said
Villa’s interest in Nakamba was made public in Egypt ahead of Zimbabwe’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
“The English side, Villa, really want Marvelous but you know there are a number of issues at stake, one of them is the transfer fee, and with the Nations Cup finals about to start, his club believed a lot could change in the event their player sparkles at the tournament,’’ a source told Zimbabwean news outlet The Herald.
“This is normal in football dealing and the friendly match between Zimbabwe and Nigeria, which ended in a goalless draw, has also been a factor.
“Marvelous has a good game in that match and the Zimbabweans also impressed a lot of people, who ultimately have a say in these dealings, who then started to believe they could go on and have a very good Nations Cup finals.
“Right, when that happens, and hoping that is what will happen, it also means that the transfer fee for most of their players, who are being eyed by the big clubs will also rise and Marvelous’ Belgian club is well aware of that and that is why they don’t seem to be in a hurry to get this deal done with.
“But, you never know with football, and things can happen quickly because the key part, the club that wants the player, has shown, and continue to show, serious interest and that is crucial in such dealings.
“If it happens, it would be a very good move for Marvelous.”
Nakamba has grabbed the headlines in Belgium for failing to report for pre-season training with Club Brugge.
He was due to report back two weeks ago but decided to go on strike in order to force through his transfer to Villa.
Nakamba is said to be angry at the way he was treated by Club Brugge during his final season at the club.