Kelechi Nwakali is yet to feature for SD Huesca this season, which he explains is due to the paperwork required to formalise his transfer.
Nwakali left Arsenal on a permanent deal in September, joining Huesca in the Spanish second division. At the time, he said a “big thank you” to Arsenal for his opportunity with the club, despite never making a senior appearance for them.
In almost two months since then, Nwakali still hasn’t made his debut for Huesca. Joining up with the Nigeria u23s for their training camp ahead of the u23 Africa Cup of Nations, the midfielder explained to the local media why that’s the case.
“I haven’t started playing with the team as I am yet to complete my clearance,” Nwakali said. “The target (with Nigeria) is to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. I came in early to camp to train with the team.”
When Nwakali does get back out on the pitch, you can back him using the best free bets in the UK in 2019. For now, it looks like that’s more likely to be with his country than his club.
This isn’t the first time Nwakali has had visa issues. Earlier this year, whilst on loan with FC Porto B, the midfielder travelled with Nigeria for a 2020 Olympic qualifier. Unfortunately, his Portuguese visa was single-entry, so he was denied reentry.
The application for a renewal took longer than expected, despite Nwakali receiving the backing of the Nigeria Football Federation. As a result, Nwakali didn’t feature for Porto B for the remaining two months of the season.
It’s not surprising the 21-year-old then struggled to find a way into Unai Emery’s plans, hence the transfer to Spain this summer. In fact, reports suggest he’s still having difficulty getting fully match sharp.
ScoreNigeria claim Nwakali and teammate Orji Okwonkwo looked “sluggish” and “unfit” in a friendly against the Niger Tornadoes in Abuja this week. The midfielder started in what turned out to be a goalless draw on the day.
The Nigeria team travel to Egypt on Thursday, with the u23 AFCON tournament set to kick-off on November 8th. Nigeria are in a group with Ivory Coast, Zambia and South Africa, facing them in that order on the 9th, 12th and 15th November.
Nwakali has previously had some success with his country’s youth teams, winning the u17 World Cup as captain in 2015. It was that victory which put him on Arsenal’s radar, and they signed him in September of the following year.
The youngster spent time on loan with MVV Maastricht (twice), VVV-Venlo and Porto B, but his lack of a work permit to play in England prevented him from featuring at all for Arsenal.
Once again, it’s a sign of the hurdles players from outside of Europe face when joining English clubs. Gabriel Martinelli has been lucky that he was able to obtain an Italian passport through his father, which has made the transition significantly easier for him.
It’s a shame that Nwakali’s footballing career has had so many hurdles that don’t actually relate to his ability or application. Perhaps the u23 AFCON tournament will give him a chance to get things back on track.