It has been confirmed that Villa have struck a deal with the Zimbabwean football association to enable midfielder Marvelous Nakamba to depart for international duty from January 3rd 2022.
Nakamba is currently in the richest form of his Aston Villa career to date, performing effectively under the instruction of new boss Steven Gerrard.
With the African Cup of Nations tournament due to begin shortly, the 26 year old had been expected to link up with the national side as early as 23rd December.Embed from Getty Images
Given Nakamba’s sudden importance to Villa’s upturn in form, the club wrote to Zimbabwe’s FA to request he fly directly to Cameroon as soon as the festive and New Year calender was completed.
This request was accepted, with officials taking the view that Nakamba stood to gain more from continuing to compete at the highest level of world club football with Villa ahead of the tournament.
This no doubt was a huge relief at the club, with ‘Marve’ having been set to miss important fixtures against Chelsea, Leeds United and Brentford.
Nakamba, erratic in form until Gerrard’s arrival, has been incredibly effective in a role ahead of Villa’s defence. The midfielder has been an important disruptor of opposition play, but has also made a number of telling tackles and interceptions in recent weeks. Notably, the club lack a comparable player in the senior set-up who could obviously deputise in the position or whom finds themselves in the form Nakamba does.
The European Club association has expressed concerns from a number of clubs about the AFCON taking place. Additionally, CAF had to downplay rumours just yesterday (7th December 2021) that the tournament could be moved from the host country Cameroon due to the emergence of Covid-19 variant Omicron. Cameroon neighbours Nigeria, which is currently on the UK red list for travel.
In an unpredictable world, this does open up the potential risk of not only players catching Covid, but also that they may be subject to lengthy quarantine periods upon returning to their respective clubs. The obvious knock on effect would be risks to health and being unavailable for additional matches.
Zimbabwe are scheduled to kick off their participation against Senegal on 10th January.