By Robson Sharuko
When the English Premiership marathon gets underway at Anfield tonight, kick-starting another nine-month roller-coaster show, its annual summer transfer billion-dollar gold rush will, for the first time, feature a Zimbabwean Warrior.
The English summer transfer window closed yesterday.
Marvelous Nakamba’s landmark £12 million move to Aston Villa means, for the first time, a Warrior’s name will be among those who made it in the European summer transfers in the era of the modern and wealthy English Premiership which started in 1992.
When Benjani Mwaruwari, then the Warriors’ skipper, signed for Blackburn Rovers in August 2010, he arrived at Ewood Park as a free agent after his contract had come to an end at Manchester City a few months earlier.
Benjani’s club record £4.1 million arrival at Portsmouth from French club AJ Auxerre was also completed in the January transfer window of the 2005-2006 season while his £3.8 million move from Pompey to Manchester City in 2008 also came in the same winter transfer window in February.
His move to the Citizens also contained a clause where the transfer deal would rise to £7.6 million, should Benjani make, at least, 75 senior starts, but the striker only made 23 appearances during his stay at Manchester City.
Bruce Grobbelaar also arrived at Southampton in August 1994, but as a free agent, after a short-term loan spell at Stoke City as his long and trophy-laden career at Liverpool finally came to an end.
Peter Ndlovu was already part of the Coventry City roaster when the English Premiership, this wealthy creature that evolved from the old First Division in 1992, came into being with the Flying Elephant earning the distinction of being the first African footballer to grace the show.
King Peter’s subsequent transfers, after his time at Coventry City was up, were to the second-tier clubs like Birmingham City in July 1997 and Sheffield United, in July 2001, who were both playing in the Championship.
Remarkably, Ndlovu’s teammate in his final season at Sheffield United in 2004, defender Phil Jageilka, is still part of the Premiership and, recently, left Everton – after a 12-year service for the Blues – to return to the Blades after their return to the English top-flight ahead of this new season.
While another footballer, Brendan Joel Zibusiso Galloway, who was born in Harare, was part of the English Premiership summer transfer business in August 2014, when he arrived at Everton from MK Dons on a five-year deal, he wasn’t a Warrior.
The defender has since resisted several attempts to lure him to play for his fatherland, as he pursued the possibility of a career for the Three Lions of England after featuring in their junior national teams, and he is now featuring for Championship side Luton Town.
Tendai Darikwa, who is now a fully-fledged Warrior, was already on the Burnley books when they arrived in the English Premiership in 2016 but never featured in a minute of action in the top-flight league before leaving to join Nottingham Forest the following year.
The 27-year-old defender is unlikely to play for Forest this year, and is certain to miss the Warriors’ return to the World Cup qualifiers in October this year after suffering a ruptured ACL which has seen him walk with the aid of a pair of clutches.
The injury came after Forest coach Sabri Lamouchi had named him as his first-choice right back.
“Sad to be out of action for a while. Will be supporting the boys week in, week out,’’ Darikwa posted on Twitter. ‘’Thank you for the messages.’’
His injury probably explains why Forest recently decided to sign Carl Jenkinson from Arsenal, for an undisclosed fee, on a three-year deal.
But, for most Zimbabwean football fans, a lot of focus will be on Aston Villa, who begin their latest Premiership campaign tomorrow with an away date against Tottenham in London.
The Birmingham side have created a constituency of fans, on the domestic scene, after their decision to acquire Warriors’ midfielder Nakamba on a five-year deal, with the midfielder becoming the first Warrior to join the English Premiership since Benjani arrived at Pompey in January 2006.
Nakamba is part of a £130 million revolution at Aston Villa which has seen the club sign more than 11 players since they gained promotion back into the Premiership.
“We are done, we are happy with what we have done and the policy that we have adopted,’’ Villa manager, Dean Smith, told BirminghamLive yesterday.
“We have done very well with recruitment and with the owners we have and we are very fortunate. I feel very happy with the squad that has been assembled. We have January if we need to and we have funds for that.”
Nakamba’s inclusion among the new arrivals, at English Premiership clubs ahead of the start of a new season, marks also the first time a Warrior’s name has featured in the narrative since Benjani arrived at Blackburn Rovers as a free agent in August 2010, just months after leaving Manchester City.
About £1.1 billion has been spent by English Premiership clubs during this summer transfer with Villa spending more than a 10th of that financial outlay.
These 20 managers – Arsene Wenger, Gerrard Houllier, Steve Bruce, Alex McLeish, Steve Kerr, Ian Holloway, Owen Coyle, Carlo Acelotti, David Moyes, Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini, Six Alex Ferguson, Alan Pardew, Tony Pulis, Harry Redknapp, Kevin Keen, Robert Martinez and Mick McCarthy – were all part of the English Premiership the last a Warrior was involved in the summer transfer business dealings.
Only one of them, Bruce, remains in the trenches this time around after arriving recently to take charge of Newcastle United.
The 20 captains, back in 2010 when the last Warrior was involved in the summer transfer business, were Cesc Fabregas, Stiliyan Petrov, Stephen Carr, Ryan Nelsen, Charlie Adam, Kevin Davies, John Terry, Phil Neville, Danny Murphy, Carlos Tevez, Gary Neville, Kevin Nolan, Ryan Shawcross, Lee Cattermole, Michael Dawson, Matthew Upson, Gary Caldwell and Kart Henry.
Now, only one of them, Terry, remains in the trenches, as assistant coach of Villa, as another Warrior has been involved in summer transfer business. The Herald