Meet Manuel Akanji, the Swiss-born Nigerian footballer making waves in Europe

Manuel Akanji

Manuel Akanji has been a revelation for FC Basel this season.

Having toiled in obscurity for several years, the 22-year-old is finally getting the recognition he so much deserves.

Akanji, a rock-solid defender with an unusual appetite for goal, is attracting loads of interest from several top European sides, most especially Borussia Dortmund.

Born in Wiesendangen, Switzerland to Nigerian dad and Swiss mum, Akanji started his youth football with a local club in his hometown.

Even as an amateur, the defender showcased exceptional qualities and it was only a matter of time before bigger sides came to town.

Winterthur were the most interested, sealing the signature of the talented prospect in 2007.

Ten years later, he has become a full-fledged Swiss international after establishing himself at Basel.

At the 20-time Swiss Super League winners, Akanji has developed into one of the finest young central defenders in the world.

Surprisingly, though, the 22-year-old was not at any point courted by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

He said: “Not that I’ve heard. Switzerland made an effort to keep me, so it was crystal clear that I would play here.”

“They welcomed me wholeheartedly. I’ve even been allowed to have a go on the PlayStation and got to show the old hands how it’s really done.”

Since making his debut against Faroe Island in June, Akanji has gone ahead to feature three more times for the Swiss national side.

He may ultimately end up clashing with his country of descent should both advance beyond the group stage at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Akanji’s assured defending and comfort with the ball at either foot bode well for his aim to play for a top European club.

He played in every Champions League group stage match this term and was a big part of Basel qualifying for the knockout stage of the competition.

According to a report from Ruhr Nachrichten, Dortmund are in “advanced talk” with the player.

He could provide BVB with a player who has the potential to be one of the best defenders in Europe, but also with a player who would be able to come in and do a job when the second half of the season gets underway in January.