Not so many Africans – particularly Nigerians – have been privileged to play for Spanish giants, Barcelona.
Barcelona, one of the world’s most successful clubs is known for its distinctive preference for homegrown talents.
In fact, only four Nigerians have been kitted by the club – joining a very short list headed by Emmanuel Amunike, Gbenga Okunowo and Haruna Babangida.
No wonder it took many by surprise after the club sealed the signing of Nigerian youngster, Ezekiel Bassey, from Enyimba on Tuesday.
“FC Barcelona and Enyimba International Football Club have reached an agreement for the loan of Ezekiel Joseph Bassey until the end of the season,” a club statement revealed.
“Bassey will form part of the B team and included in the deal is the option to sign him on a two-year deal in the summer.”
We take a look at this extraordinary teenager whom the Catalan side couldn’t just ignore.
Who is the man Ezekiel Bassey?
Bassey is a 19-year-old who plays as a winger with lightening pace, flicks and tricks – similar to that of Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa.
He started his career at Emma Ntuk Academy in his native Akwa Ibom before joining Akwa United. His superb displays for the Promise Keepers triggered a move to Enyimba in 2014 where he was reunited with close friend and ex-teammate, Mfon Udoh.
“He is a fantastic player and his running, especially off the ball, is second to none,” Enyimba chairman, Felix Anyansi Agwu, said. “Barcelona will not regret getting him.”
Impressive stint with Enyimba
Bassey was an instant hit after sealing a move to the Peoples’ Elephant. The dazzling midfielder helped the club to their record seventh league title in 2015 – shouldering the club’s goalscoring burden in the absence of injured Udoh. However, the forward struggled the season after as he battled with injuries and dip in form. His abysmal performances directly had an effect on his club who finished in a disappointing 10th position in 2016.
Has he been capped by Nigeria?
Yes. Bassey was part of the Super Eagles squad to the 2016 African Nations Championship, the continent’s tournament for players who play in their domestic leagues. The forward only made few cameo appearances as the team led by Sunday Oliseh abruptly left the competition in the group stage.
How did Barca find Bassey?
Bassey was spotted by Barcelona while on a tour of Spain with the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) All-Star team last August. The tour was part of a bilateral agreement signed between the NPFL and La Liga last year which includes technical partnerships between the leagues and their member clubs. Officials tracked him after that, and also analysed videos of his previous games provided by former Nigeria international Babangida, who spent seven years with the club between 1997 and 2004.
What are his chances with the team?
Bassey is expected to head straight into Gerard Lopez’s team in their bid to return to the second tier of Spanish football. Should the 19-year-old impress, the club could be tempted to offer him an extension and probably promote the youngster to their main team which parades the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.