Nigeria‘s Umar Sadiq enjoyed a terrific start to the season after signing for Real Sociedad, but his progress was halted disastrously by an injury sustained this weekend, while Ghana‘s World Cup hopes have been swelled by the sustained form of Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus and the promise of Nico Williams.
Super Eagles’ strike force depleted
With Sadiq joining Victor Osimhen on the sidelines, Nigeria are fast running out of viable attacking options ahead of the upcoming international break and their friendly against Algeria on September 27.
This new season promised to be a big one for Super Eagles frontman Sadiq. After a nomadic start to his senior career, he finally settled at Almeria in 2020, and went on to average a goal every other game over the next two campaigns as the Rojiblancos fired their way out of the second tier.
This season was to be his first in a major European league since 2017, and after two goals in his first three outings for Almeria, he secured a move to Real Sociedad — and the prospect of playing in the Europa League.
A goal on his Sociedad debut — less than 10 minutes after being introduced from the bench — secured a point for Imanol Alguacil’s side against Atletico Madrid last weekend, with the ex-Rangers man immediately endearing himself to his new club’s fans.
Everything was set up for Sadiq to enjoy a successful campaign, and emerge as a genuine challenge to Victor Osimhen as Nigeria’s leading striker.
It wasn’t just his goal that prompted adulation from the supporters, with Sadiq settling quickly and troubling the Atletico backline both by dropping deep and linking the play, and pressing up to pressure the opposition backline.
However, disaster struck this weekend, as Sadiq – making his first league start for his new club – was replaced in significant discomfort after 38 minutes. The forward sustained the injury during a mistimed challenge during the early exchanges, but played on for over half an hour before his eventual withdrawal.
In hindsight, it may have proved a costly decision, with Sociedad confirming on Monday that the attacker had suffered a rupture of his anterior cruciate ligament and would undergo surgery.
It’s a devastating setback for the in-form hitman, who now faces a minimum of six months on the sidelines, and may even face a battle to return to action in time for the season’s end. It’s also a blow for Sociedad, who parted with €20 million to recruit the attacker as a replacement for new Newcastle United arrival Alexander Isak.
Having waited so long for the opportunity to return to a major league, and having worked his way back to a top tier after dropping down the divisions, Sadiq must now find the mental strength and resolve to go again, focus on his rehabilitation, and – in 2023 – get his career back on track.
Kudus finds second wind at Ajax Amsterdam
For Ghana, by contrast, who dumped the Super Eagles out of the running for the World Cup, genuinely quality attacking options are coming to the fore just in time for this month’s friendly against Brazil and the trip to Qatar.
Suddenly, after being at odds with Ajax ahead of transfer deadline day, Mohammed Kudus has found some sensational form since remaining at the club.
Kudus, amidst interest from Everton, reportedly sought to push for an exit from the Amsterdam giants in order to get gametime to advance his claim for Ghana’s World Cup squad. After that bid failed, he’s knuckled down and had a hand in five goals in his last three games.
Before this weekend, he’d scored against Cambuur and had a hand in two goals in the midweek thumping of Rangers, before netting a further two goals in Saturday’s 5-0 demolition of Heerenveen.
This was the third consecutive match that Ajax have won by a four+ goal scoreline — only the second time they’ve done this since the turn of the century — while Kudus had never before scored twice for the side in a single fixture.
Kudus finally appears to have forced his way firmly into Alfred Schreuder’s starting XI, and on his recent form, is increasingly appearing undroppable. He will easily eclipse his previous Eredivisie career best of four goals, and is primed for the World Cup in the form of his career.
Compatriot Brian Brobbey was dropped to the bench for the contest, with Kudus operating as a false nine, but was introduced for Steven Bergwijn with an hour to play and promptly added Ajax’s fifth after fine work from Dusan Tadic.
“I was a little frustrated,” Brobbey told ESPN when asked about his bench role. “I think it’s normal, because you want to play.
“The choice is up to the head coach, but that’s between him and I – we have many options and the coach has indicated that he wants to rotate.
“As a player, I want to play – but you have to respect the ideas of the coach.”
Another sibling pair on the cards for Ghana?
As well as watching Kudus in action against Brazil in Le Havre later this month, Ghana fans will also be purring about the prospect of Inaki Williams making his long-awaited debut for the Black Stars after switching nationality from Spain.
The attacker, now aged 28, represented La Roja at senior level in 2016, but now appears primed to feature for Ghana in Qatar alongside fellow new arrivals Mohammed Salisu, Tariq Lamptey and Antoine Semenyo.
Could Inaki’s brother Nico also be included in Otto Addo’s plans? The wonderkid scored his first ever La Liga goal this weekend when he added Athletic Bilbao’s third in their 4-1 victory away at Elche on Sunday.
The 20-year-old made 34 appearances in the top tier last term, without registering a single goal or an assist, but has now had a hand in two goals in five league outings so far this term.
Naturally, amidst the swathe of new arrivals in the Ghana fold, Black Stars fans are already calling for the Ghana Football Association to advance the case for the youngster’s nationality switch, and who knows, perhaps he could be a late inclusion in the World Cup squad. His raw pace and direct running could make him a major asset off the bench in Qatar.
Hakimi denies Messi frustration at PSG
PSG’s unconvincing 1-0 victory over Brest at the weekend was a frustrating outing for Hakimi, who repeatedly found himself in a good position following excellent off-the-ball movement, only for Messi to choose other options rather than play in the Morocco wideman.
“I feel great with Leo and Sergio [Ramos],” he told journalists in Saturday’s mixed zone. “It’s not a problem when I make a call and Leo doesn’t give me the ball.
“It’s because there’s another player better placed. Today, he gave it to [match-winner] Neymar.”
Hakimi is adapting well to a role on the right side of Galtier’s 3-4-1-2 formation where he’s charged with providing both width and thrust to the reigning French champions, but some excellent work out wide often went unrewarded on Saturday.
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