Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Nakamba shattered by Villa order

By Robson Sharuko

Aston Villa manager, Dean Smith, has revealed Marvelous Nakamba was left devastated, after the club triggered their rights, to bar him from travelling to play in this month’s AFCON qualifiers.

Aston Villa have agreed a deal worth more than £11m for Club Brugge midfielder Marvelous Nakamba
Aston Villa midfielder Marvelous Nakamba

The Warriors are set to take on Botswana and Zambia, in the final two matches of their qualifiers, which will decide whether they make it to Cameroon, next year, or watch from the sidelines.

Nakamba had been named in the squad, by coach Zdravko Logarusic, even though the Croat, to his credit, was clear he didn’t believe the influential midfielder would be granted the greenlight, to come home for the matches.

FIFA have empowered clubs to withhold players, from reporting for national duty, in instances where, on their return to their bases, they have to go into isolation, for more than five days.

Smith said Villa have always derived a lot of pride, and satisfaction, from Nakamba playing from the Warriors, but a tough decision had to be taken, this month, for the benefit of both the player and the club.

Villa also blocked goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez from travelling to Argentina, to play for his country this month, while a similar order was placed on midfielder, Douglas Luiz, who had been called by five-time World Champions, Brazil.

Zimbabwe, Argentina and Brazil are among the 32 countries, listed by British authorities, as being in the red-zone, when it comes to travel restrictions, enacted to try and halt the spread of Covid-19 in the United Kingdom.

The Herald revealed, earlier this week, Nakamba had been barred by his club, from flying home for the two international features, with the story being picked up by the international media.

Yesterday, for the first time since the story broke out, Villa manager, Smith, addressed the issue and confirmed that Nakamba, just like Luiz and Martinez, had been barred from flying out to represent their countries.

Smith said they have always generated a lot of pride in seeing players like Nakamba, going to play for their countries, dotted across the globe.

However, with British authorities insisting that those who travel to the flagged countries have to spend 10 days in quarantine, in an airport hotel, on their return to the UK, Smith said some tough decisions had to be taken.

“I’ve sat down with all three of them and it’s our right to stop them from travelling to a red-list zone,” Smith told British journalists yesterday.

“They’re disappointed because they want to represent their countries but they understand as well. “I’m pretty sure all Premier League teams will stop players from going to red-list zones where they’re required to self-isolate for 10 days in a hotel when they get back.

‘’All three players are aware of Aston Villa’s stance on travelling to a red-list zone.

‘’At the end of the day, the football clubs are the wage payers to these players and we’ve never stood in the way and we’ve always celebrated players being international footballers.

“We will continue to do so but, such is the world is at the moment when FIFA and UEFA are telling you that you don’t have to allow your players to go to red-list zones then it’s only right to take them up on that.”

Villa were not comfortable that Nakamba, Martinez and Luiz were likely miss their league match against Fulham, after the international break, while they completed their quarantine.

Nakamba and Luiz are Villa’s main defensive midfield players.

Villa’s remarkable run, of not conceding a goal in the English Premiership games in which Nakamba had played this season, came to an end at Bramall Lane on Wednesday night.

The Zimbabwe international midfielder was thrown into the starting XI, after being rewarded for his strong performance against Leeds United, at Elland Road at the weekend.

Ahead of the match against the Blades, a lot of media focus was on Villa’s rock-solid defence, which has kept an impressive 13 clean sheets, a record only bettered by Manchester City.

Nakamba had featured in eight league games, ahead of the Leeds game, starting four of those and, in his 377 minutes of Premier League action, Villa hadn’t conceded a goal.

However, all that was ended when David McGoldrich scored in the 30th minute to give the Blades victory.

The amazing run for Villa and Nakamba, ended after 407 minutes. Smith, though appears to remain happy about the defensive side of his team. Yesterday, he responded to Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher’s praise of his team’s defensive performance, especially how centreback Ezri Konsa has performed this season.

Until the defeat at Sheffield United, Villa had kept a record eight clean sheets away from home, an impressive record which was only matched by Paris Saint Germain, in Europe’s top five divisions.

“There’s a player I want to highlight, Konsa,” Carragher said on Monday Night Football, alongside Tyrone Mings. That, and the goalkeeper, that triangle, has been huge for them.

“Konsa’s a player who’s made more blocks in the Premier League this season (30). A brilliant defender and I think he’s made a huge difference.

‘’As a partnership I think (Konsa and Mings) have played together more than anyone else in the Premier League, so it’s very consistent.

“They kept another clean sheet at Leeds. Konsa threw his body (at a shot) and that summed them up to be honest. I can’t talk highly enough of how impressed I’ve been with him defensively. He doesn’t do silly things. He’s very brave at getting the blocks in.

“I think it’s a real pat on the back for the coaching team, Dean Smith and, of course, John Terry. There’s no-one better than a centre-back to work with, he’s the best we’ve seen in the Premier League.

“Craig Shakespeare has also come in so it’s been top marks from a coaching setup and, also, when you bring players in and get the signings right. So, going from the worst (defensive record) in Europe to the best in Europe, I think that’s what we’ve been seeing.”

And, Smith, appreciated the praise which his defensive players have been getting.

“Our defensive improvement has been significant since Project Restart. When we came out of that first lockdown, it was important we improved our defensive structure as a team, our work ethic and I think we did that and that’s why we stayed in the division.

“There is a growing maturity amongst this group of players.’’ Nakamba and Luiz provide the shield which protects the defence. The Herald

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