By Robson Sharuko
Zimbabwe international footballer Nyasha Mushekwi says he isn’t overwhelmed by the massive $50 million investment which his Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang invested in two highly-rated forwards — Nico Gaitan of Argentina and Yannick Carrasco of Belgium — and will battle for his place in the team.
Mushekwi, who turns 31 on August 21 this year, has been the subject of intense social and mainstream media speculation that he was on his way out of the club he helped secure a return to the Chinese Super League with a glut of goals last year in which he was the team’s outstanding player.
The speculation has been fuelled by Dalian Yifang’s massive investment in two prized forwards from Spanish giants Atletico Madrid — Gaitan and Carrasco — after fresh funds were poured into the Chinese club’s coffers by new investors who also had interests in the Madrid side.
The Chinese club also acquired giant Portuguese defender Jose Fonte from English Premiership side West Ham.
Gaitan, who turned 30 on February 23, is an Argentine playmaker while Carrasco, who turns 25 on September 4, is a Belgian international forward and both players are expected to make the trip to the FIFA World Cup in Russia in June.
Reports in the Spanish media claim Carrasco, who was also a target of West Ham and Everton, was wooed to the Chinese club by personal financial incentives of about 70 million euros (approximately $86.13 million).
All the new arrivals from Europe’s top two leagues were drafted straight into the Dalian Yifang first team in their league match against Shanghai SIPG last Saturday where the Chinese Super League newboys received a baptism of fire as they crashed to a 0-8 loss. Mushekwi didn’t feature in that match, which had been billed as an historic encounter for him given he was set to become the first Zimbabwean to play in the rebranded big-money Chinese Super League, and his absence triggered another wave of speculation about his future.
Some reports even suggested Mushekwi was told he was now surplus to requirements at the club and could move to a team of his choice.
However, in an exclusive interview with The Herald, the Zimbabwean international forward said:
He remains a member of the Dalian Yifang squad and, despite the arrival of the big-name signings, he believes he will get his chance to play in the team this season and could even feature as soon as this weekend.
- The eight-goal humiliation was, indeed, a baptism of fire but blamed it on the lack of co-ordination given that the team had not trained together with their new big-profile teammates ahead of that match.
- He was happy at Dalian Yifang, despite the arrival of the big-name players, and he was viewing this as a challenge to prove he was good enough to make the grade at the club and also get better as a player.
- While there was talk about him being traded, it never materialised because the fans of the club, who have seen the massive contribution that he has given to the team during his time there, protested against such a move
- The coming in of new investors probably caused the wave of misinformation which culminated in the speculation that his time at Dalian Yifang had come to an end despite his heroics in helping them qualify for the Chinese Super League.
‘’Yes, I’m still with the team, of course, there is going to be a lot of talk because of this game that we lost but, yeah, I’m still with the team,’’ he told The Herald.
‘’It’s always gonna be a big deal, especially when the team buys these big players, these high-profile players, but my chances of playing are as good as the new guys who came.
‘’Okay, there was talk about me moving to another team, or so, but in the end that didn’t happen, they wanted to trade me, they wanted to release me, stuff like that, but a lot of things just kind of happened, the fans didn’t want me to leave.
‘’And the next thing, there was miscommunication between the company that was running the team and the company that came to buy, or that started investing in the team, so that’s where the problem was but it was fixed and now I’m here looking forward to this new season that has just started.
‘’Everything has been okay and we are training well now with the new guys just to try and gel and see how best we can establish ourselves in the new season.
‘’I expect to play as soon as (possible), maybe in the next game, I might start because after our last game where we lost so badly the coach (might) want to rectify (or) probably (stick) with the same kind of players he used in the last game to show them whatever but, maybe, I will start but I don’t know and we will see how it will happen.
‘’But my chances of playing are very good. Very soon I will be back in the grill. I’m good, it’s not a big deal, just working hard as always, pushing to see how the season is gonna turn up and I am happy.’’
He also explained why he didn’t play in the first game.
‘’Why I didn’t play is that in the Super League you are only allowed to register four foreigners but only three get to play per game and so, like the week before the league started, our team bought the new big players and it kinda gave the coach the pressure to start these big players,’’ Mushekwi said.
‘’So, they only arrived like a day before our game and they never really had like a proper training with the team and so this is probably one of the big reasons why we lost so badly like that but I’m sure things will turn out better during the next couple of games but it’s been an eye-opener.
‘’Our team can compete, definitely, and it’s just, you know, how it is when you change so much and you don’t have that time to gel, you haven’t trained with the new guys and this whole week that’s what the coach has been trying to preach about, to fix all the mistakes that happened in the previous game.
‘’It’s not a big deal, it’s not like different levels like we playing Real Madrid or something like that, it’s just that these teams, especially them Shanghai and those players like Hulk, they have already been playing, they started early because of the Asia Champions League and so that difference with us coming from the First Division and these guys who have already been playing.
‘’So, yeah, it was an eye-opener and, at least, it happened in the first game and that way we can be able to fix everything and see how best we can establish ourselves in the league.’’ The Herald