Ahmed Musa goes from Leicester City reject to Al-Nassr demigod
Two seasons ago, Ahmed Musa was Leicester City's marquee signing. The Foxes broke their club record to bring the speedy striker from CSKA Moscow. Musa joined the unending queue of expensive mistakes made by Premier League clubs. The story doesn’t end on a sour note, though. Both parties ended their association with a smile.
After winning the Premier League title against all odds, Leicester had cash to burn. So, they struck a match. First, the club lavished £16 million on a supposed upgrade in Shinji Okazaki. Then, as a strike partner for Jamie Vardy, Leicester expected Musa to fit into their pacy, direct style. Early signs were positive. The new arrival scored a remarkable brace against Barcelona. The Foxes lost that game 4-2.
Then the season began. It went no better for the Nigerian than it did for the club. Claudio Ranieri, who'd given the nod to sign the attacker, lost his job. Musa wasn’t a regular starter under the Italian. He started seven of 24 matches. Still, the cameos Ranieri offered were fair. Musa scored two goals in the 698 minutes given. He added two more in the FA Cup. Exiled to the end of the bench when Craig Shakespeare took over, Musa found a meagre 54 league minutes in the season's final 14 games.
That sums up the 25-year-old's work at the King Power. He remained on the payroll as an outcast. Once rated among the best players in the Russian Premier League, he couldn't make the bench in England. Musa spent his sophomore season's first half with the Foxes reserve team. He was named to the squad for Leicester’s 2-1 home defeat to Liverpool but wasn’t called upon to play.
In January, the Foxes loaned him back to CSKA. The return to Russia injected life into Musa's ailing career. The five-month spell produced seven goals and a call-up to Nigeria’s World Cup squad. Russia continued to treat him well even when he wore Super Eagles' green. He became Nigeria’s World Cup record scorer. His brace against Iceland featured a stunner that was voted the tournament's eighth-best goal. It's hard to believe there were seven better.
Musa’s heroics both for CSKA and Nigeria should have culminated in a return to the Leicester first team. Instead, City jumped at a £15 million offer for the player from Saudi Arabian side, Al Nassr.
As his country’s brightest star at the World Cup, the move to the Gulf state is a step down. Nevertheless, the move features a salary that dwarfs his Leicester wage packet. Further, the love he’s received since arriving is what every player needs to blossom. He's worshipped in Riyadh.
His international place isn't threatened. He’s an experienced member of the Super Eagles with a better record at 25 than most players achieve in their full careers.
Musa’s career at Al Nassr began on a high. He scored a distinct winner on his debut, then delivered a well-crafted assist in his second game. Plenty more will come.