BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
WHEN Marvelous Nakamba did not feature in Aston Villa’s first three English Premiership matches, following his reported £12 million move from Belgian giants Club Brugge, there were fears that the Zimbabwe international midfielder would find the going tough at the Birmingham-based club.
Nakamba had arrived at Villa Park amid a lot of expectations after a massive £150m English summer spending spree by the Premiership returnees.
Expectations were also equally high back home for the Hwange-born combative midfielder to do well after he became just the fourth Zimbabwean footballer to play in the English top tier after Bruce Grobbelaar, Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari.
However, it was initially not all smooth sailing for Nakamba as he arrived at his new club short of the required fitness levels after he got injured in the opening game of the African Cup of Nations ( Afcon) match against hosts Egypt in June.
Nakamba had to bide his time before making his Premiership bow as he sat out his team’s matches before making his club debut in a Carabao Cup second-round clash against League Two side Crewe.
Since then it has been a remarkable run for the talented former Bantu Rovers star, who has been named among the nominees for the club’s man-of-the-match award in all the games he has featured thus far.
The latest was Villa’s 2-2 draw against Burnley last weekend, where Nakamba enjoyed a majority vote of 57% on the club’s Twitter poll for the man-of-the-match award to beat three of his teammates.
Although Zimbabweans flooding the club’s Twitter polls in support of Nakamba, crucially the player’s exploits have also been earning him praises from his teammates and coaches.
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith on Wednesday backed Nakamba to reach the same heights as his brilliant teammate John McGinn.
McGinn (24) has been the standout player at the Midlands club having already weighed in with three league goals and Smith reckons Nakamba is pushing for the same levels as the Scotland international.
“There are people who are starting to catch him (McGinn) up as well. I thought Nakamba was very good [against Burnley], only his third start. First-half he was pushing John McGinn,” Smith said, as quoted by the club’s official Youtube account.
Nakamba, who started his career with local side Bantu Rovers and then moved to France with Nancy before joining Vitesse Arnhem and Club Brugge, paid tribute to his teammates for helping him to settle easily at his new club.
“It’s been a case of so far, so good. It’s been fantastic. Everyone is helping me to settle, I’m pushing myself as well. My team-mates have done everything to make me feel good, too.”
He, however, feels there is still some room for improvement in his game as he braces for the crucial period where Aston Villa face off against the likes of Manchester City (October 26), Liverpool (November 2), Manchester United (December 1) and Chelsea (December 4).
“There is always room for improvement and it can get better. But I feel good. I’ve had the experience of my debut.
“Given the opportunity, I will tell myself to give everything every time, in football there are no limits, there is always room for improvement.
“You can always get better and better and better. “Compared to other leagues, the Premier League is at a different level. Now I want to improve.”
Nakamba is also expected to play a key role for the Warriors in the 2021 Afcon qualifiers, which begin next month.
Zimbabwe are in Group H of the 2021 Afcon qualifiers alongside champions Algeria, Botswana and 2012 winners Zambia.
The Warriors, who are gunning for a third straight Afcon finals appearance, host the Zebras of Botswana on November 11 before playing Chipolopolo away on November 19.