By Eddie Chikamhi
Aston Villa legend Gabriel Agbonlahor has insisted midfielder Marvelous Nakamba still has a big role to play at the English Premiership football club this season.
The Zimbabwean midfielder, who has played peripheral roles for Villa of late, is subject of renewed loan transfer speculation ahead of the January window.
However, Villa legend Agbonlahor told the Football Insider that the club should not look at off-loading Nakamba in January despite the strong links with Turkish giants, Galatasaray.
Asked whether it was time for the club in January to off-load Nakamba, who was signed for £11 million last year, Agbonlahor said: “I actually don’t, to be honest.
“Dean Smith will have picked his 25-man squad for the season, unless he has money to bring in new signings I don’t think he would get rid of him.
“Just because you’ve got (Douglas) Luiz, (Jack) Grealish, (Conor) Hourihane, (John) McGinn, (Ross) Barkley in front of him at the moment, there’s injuries and suspensions that could happen. Who do you call for then? I’m sure he’s the next one in line.
“I’m sure Dean Smith will be thinking he’ll use him at some point this season when needed.
“At the moment Dean Smith needs a big squad for the season. The last thing you want is to have just 18 senior players available, as some clubs have already done this season like Burnley.
“That can easily happen if you decide to move players on. For sure, I think he keeps hold of him and he’s involved in the squad,” said Agbanlahor.
Nakamba has been rarely seen for Villa this season, managing just six appearances in all competitions. He featured mostly in the Carabao Cup when he played three games. He has also made some cameos in the league.
But the Zimbabwe international has been limited to just under 15 minutes of English Premier League action this season.
McGinn and Luiz have established themselves as Smith’s midfield duo but Agbonlahor has claimed Nakamba is next in line if they suffer an injury or pick up a suspension.
Nakamba featured in added time at the weekend as a late second half substitute after Anwar El Ghazi converted a stoppage-time penalty to help Aston Villa snatch victory in their West Midlands derby at Wolves.
The 26-year-old Zimbabwean was brought in to replace Jacob Ramsey seven minutes into added time, as Villa looked to close shop.
Before the cameo at the weekend, his last match was a 10-minute appearance in the 7-2 victory over Liverpool at the start of October. Villa manager Smith preferred to play the centre-midfielder in the Carabao Cup this season.
It has led to reports from Turkey that Galatasaray may renew their interest in the former Club Brugge player after failing to land him in the Summer.
Yet, Villa hero Agbonlahor feels his old club would be wrong to get rid of the Zimbabwe international so willingly.
Back home, Nakamba has been encouraged to focus on fighting for his place at Aston Villa and to make sure he stays in the English Premiership despite interests elsewhere.
Zimbabwe national football team manager, Wellington Mpandare, yesterday said Nakamba seems happy at Villa and his decisions should be respected.
“I speak often with these (foreign-based Warriors) guys and I would want to be honest that he has not mentioned anything about the need to move.
“The good thing is that he is desperately wanted by other clubs, which speaks volume of his potential. But the interests from these guys from Turkey are not new. They wanted him since his days in the Netherlands.
“However, it appears he is happy at Villa and instead of paying attention to all the talk taking place on the sidelines he is focused on the task at hand, which is to improve his game and to fight for a starting place in the team.
“From the look of things, he is very much in the plans of the coach and that is the reason why he kept him when others were cleared to go during the previous window.
“So, Nakamba knows the situation better because he is close to the coach and is well-versed whether he still has him in his plans or not.
“I would advise him to follow his heart. If he is happy, then why move? It’s unlike the situation he found himself in when he left Belgium. That time he really wanted to move and he made it clear,” said Mpandare.
The Warriors team manager also said Nakamba’s presence in the English Premier League bodes well for Zimbabwean football.
“He is better placed to make the decisions about his future. But if you ask me, I would say that I want him to stay in England for as long as possible. English Premiership football is much more competitive and has a greater reach across the globe.
“Right now Zimbabwe is talked about in the English Premier League and elsewhere because of Nakamba. Imagine, if we can have another player, for example if Reiss Nelson agrees to play for the Warriors, there will be two Zimbabweans in the English Premier League and the end result is that it could open doors for more of our players abroad,” said Mpandare. The Herald.