Ahmed Musa has joined his State club Kano Pillars following his inability to secure a contract with clubs outside Nigeria. This marks a shift in the professional career of Nigerian football players, who seldom play for home-based clubs after their spell abroad, preferring even clubs in other African countries.
Musa, who is currently Nigeria’s national team skipper, joins as a Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) elite player with the aim of boosting their image as well as helping himself maintain fitness as he continues his search for a European club.
The 28 year-old who left the Riyad-based Saudi Arabian club, Al Nassr in October, has struggled to find a team outside Nigeria even though he has reportedly received offers from England, Russia and Turkey.
Musa said the idea behind his decision is to paint the neglected Nigerian league in good light.
“Anything that improves the image of Nigerian football is something that I strive to embark on and Kano Pillars holds a special place in my heart,” the former Leicester City player told BBC Sport Africa as he considered the deal.
“It’s the team that helped me become the professional footballer I am today, so this is more than just football but a very strong bond.”
The lackluster situation in Nigerian league has made it unattractive to players who have experienced professional life with clubs outside Nigeria, especially Europe. Although they have been cases where some Nigerian footballers have returned to the local league after a spell in Europe, it has been in low numbers compared to their counterparts in other parts of the world.
In Brazil, a South American country with one of the highest numbers of football exports to Europe, there is an overwhelming record of players’ willingness to return to their domestic league after leaving their European clubs.
Robinho, after shining with top European clubs such as Real Madrid, AC Milan and Man City, returned to Santos, his home club. His fellow Brazilian, Ronaldinho, who played for PSG, Barcelona and AC Milan and won the Ballon D’or twice, also had the pleasure to return to Brazil when he left Europe, playing for his home clubs including Clube Atletico Mineiro, Fluminense FC and Clube de Regatas do Flamengo.
Argentine astro and current world best player, Lionel Messi has in his contract with Barcelona, a clause that will allow him to return to his childhood club, Newell Old Boys in his home town. Carlos Tevez, Messi’s former national team mate turned down offers from European to return to Boca Juniors, a local Argentine club.
Musa, who played for CSK Moscow of Russia and Leicester City of England before moving to Saudi Arabia, wishes to use his time with Kano Pillars to keep fit for the upcoming Super Eagles’ games and change the stereotype of Nigerian overseas-based players and their home clubs.
For the NPFL, Musa presence offers a chance to promote the despised domestic league. Nigerian football fans are European football-pro, and hardly give attention to the local clubs and their players due to their “lowkey” status.
It is not clear how long Musa will play for Kano Pillars before finding another club abroad, but it is hoped his stay at the club will woo the passion for the domestic league out of Nigerians.