Ahmed Musa 21 Striker CSKA Moscow Nigeria
2013 has been…
A potential turning point. Ahmed Musa, formerly of VVV Venlo, starred for CSKA Moscow as they swept the board domestically in 2013 and was perhaps the most important player in Leonid Slutsky’s side, scoring 11 league goals as CSKA took the Russian Premier League title, their 11th in the Russian or Soviet top flight.
In the absence of Seydou Doumbia, Musa found himself deployed centrally rather than out wide and both player and club benefited quickly and clearly. Thanks in large part to his pace Musa frequently looks the most dangerous player on the pitch and in the early part of the year – a period during which he suffered a significant family tragedy – looked to have developed a reasonably useful understanding with Vagner Love, who later departed for China.
Always lively and threatening, Musa has electrifying pace and his directness causes all sorts of problems for opponents at club and international levels. Profligacy in front of goal can be a problem but the chances will keep coming his way because he is aggressive and fearless.
He can create too; a lethal low cross is some party piece, and Musa likes to give it an airing on a regular basis, as Uruguay discovered when they played Nigeria in the Confederations Cup. They saw the other side of the coin, too; had Musa’s finishing been better the Nigerians might have achieved more than a 2-1 loss.
Musa’s technique is good but what sets him apart is that scintillating speed and the smarts to know how and when to use it. He’s a player who gets supporters out of their seats, who makes it advisable for defenders not to race him under any circumstances.
Like his ability to see the spaces to burst into, his movement is the result of a quick football brain and is quite brilliant. His first touch can be an absolute beauty at times but he seems to be missing a bit of craft about his game. Decision-making isn’t always his strength and his desire to run at defenders just doesn’t seem to be matched by a trick to get past them, other than his pace – that’s usually enough.
That said, it is his wastefulness that tends to irritate Nigeria supporters and it does take the edge off his game. He can also struggle when faced his physical opponents, toiling with all his might but with little joy. Rubin Kazan, amongst others, have flummoxed the Nigerian in the stripes of CSKA.
Musa, who scored in the final of the Russian Cup as well as guiding them to the league title, was born in central Nigeria and has been playing for the Super Eagles since 2010. Five goals in over 30 appearances isn’t a great return on paper for a forward, but Musa’s tactical importance shouldn’t be overlooked. His tendency to roam around off a more experienced attacking focal point – for Nigeria, that was most recently Emmanuel Emenike of Fenerbahçe – gives defenders plenty to think about.
Thanks to a two-legged victory over Ethiopia this autumn – a qualification playoff in which Musa showed exactly what he’s about, good and bad – Nigeria will be one of the increasingly familiar African competitors at next summer’s World Cup. Musa will be there, more caps perched atop his blossoming bonce, and will be hopeful of making his mark on the world stage. Players who move to Russia often seem to disappear from mainstream view, but a goal or two in Brazil would boost Musa’s profile no end.
Whilst that wouldn’t be a surprise, it’s more likely that he will be kicking himself over missed chances despite a good overall contribution. But there’s no doubt Musa will have plenty of time to hone his finishing touch in the green of Nigeria. At 21 years of age he’s already much closer to 50 international appearances than to zero. Meet a centurion in the making.
"Ahmed Musa scored five goals in his first seven games this season but has failed to scored in his last 16 (Russian Premier League and Champions League)." - Opta
C+ With more experience and a little shooting practice, a big future beckons