The Super Eagles captain is without a club after the struggling Baggies opted against signing him, and it is unclear where he goes from here
While fans and observers alike await the release of Gernot Rohr’s latest list of call-ups for March’s international assignments, the biggest intrigue surrounds the status of veteran forward Ahmed Musa.
The speedy winger is currently without a club, and while Rohr has been reluctant to show his hand and rule him out definitively on that basis, the decision will prove an instructive one.
It is a talking point that has been seized upon by ardent critics of the German coach, and were he to decide to retain Musa, it will no doubt be used both as a stick with which to beat him and as proof of his hypocrisy and favouritism, seeing as he has previously emphasized the primacy of good club form.
On a lighter note, however, the trend of non-playing Nigeria captains looks set to continue.
If you’re Ahmed Musa, you’re calm about it all.
We are, after all, talking about a player whose career began over a decade ago. He has been to and scored in two World Cups, has captained his national team and has played at the highest level of European club football: the Champions League. He has also already followed the well-worn late-career path of financial consolidation to the Middle East, where he turned out for Al-Nassr until his contract ended and he was released in late 2020.
There is not much in football left realistically for him to accomplish.
Sure, his stint in the Premier League did not go so well, but there will be no one more keenly aware of his limitations as a player than the man himself. He quite simply was not good enough to make a mark in that league, and it showed on the handful of occasions he did pull on Leicester blue.
That, however, does little to detract from the sort of career he has had overall.
However, for all that, this is still a player who is only 28. That’s very young, even allowing for the fact his start at a very young age put some extra mileage on the engine. Besides cases of serious injury curtailing a player, this is – in theory at least – a footballer’s prime, the point of his career in which he should be coming into his own, having perfected and honed his craft to the utmost.
Why then does it seem, in Musa’s case, that he is closer to retirement than a second wind?
It has now been months since his release from his contract in Saudi Arabia, and yet the former CSKA Moscow man has yet to find a new club.
To be clear, this is a seasoned international, captain of his national team, and one of the fastest footballers in the game at one point.
The most concrete links had him joining the Premier League salvage mission at West Bromwich Albion, who in January happily signed 33-year-old Robert Snodgrass from West Ham, but reportedly expressed scepticism over Musa’s fitness levels during a trial.
Not palatable reading at all.
So, what’s next for Ahmed Musa? Retirement?
Surely not. One might be able to explain away calling time on a career early by pointing to the notion it’s best to leave when the ovation is still reverberating around the hall, but that is hardly the case here: Musa’s last meaningful imprint on football was his brace against Iceland at the last World Cup, and that was close to three years ago.
Realistically though, what else is there?
Whatever postulation one might make, it is important to remember that, without clubs actually showing interest, it all amounts to less than a hill of beans. What would prospective suitors be getting now?
Musa is rapid still, but has never had the close control, associative play or decision-making to be a consistent threat at a high level when played wide. As part of a big man-little man combo upfront where he could focus on making runs off the shoulder, maybe, but that’s a very particular attacking strategy to adopt in modern football.
In many ways, Musa is something of a man out of time, in both senses of the expression: he does not obviously fit in anywhere major, and spending time on the shelf will do little to repair that. Yet there are few obvious solutions besides.