5 things about Barcelona’s Nigerian recruit Ezekiel Bassey

5 things about Barcelona’s Nigerian recruit Ezekiel Bassey

On deadline day, Nigerians were blindsided by news that Enyimba winger Ezekiel Bassey had signed with Spanish giants Barcelona on an initial six-month loan, with an option for a two-year contract after.

Here are five things you need to know about the transfer and the player himself.

1. Spotted on NPFL’s tour of spain

Bassey was spotted by Barcelona while on a tour of Spain with the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) All-Star team last August.

The tour was part of a bilateral agreement signed between the NPFL and La Liga last year which includes technical partnerships between the league’s and their member clubs.

Officials tracked him after that, and also analysed videos of his previous games provided by former Nigeria international Haruna Babangida, who spent seven years with the club between 1997 and 2004.

A final decision to sign him was made on Thursday, and the deal was agreed and completed within 48 hours and the player flew out on Monday night after securing a special, emergency visa.

Gbenga Okunowo is one of three Nigerian players to have plied his trade at the Nou Camp.

Gbenga Okunowo is one of three Nigerian players to have plied his trade at the Nou Camp.

2. Fourth Nigerian to don Barca colours

Bassey becomes the fourth Nigerian to play for Barcelona, joining a very short list headed by Emmanuel Amunike, Gbenga Okunowo and Babangida.

He also becomes only the second Nigerian, after Okunowo in 1995, to join the Catalans direct from the Nigerian domestic league.

The 20-year-old will hope to make a bigger impact than Okunowo, who took a full year to break into the first team from the B side, and only managed to make 21 appearances before he was farmed out on loan and eventually traded.

3. Bassey plays like Bayern Munich’s Costa

A very talented winger, whose ball game has been likened to Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa, Bassey combines intelligence with skill and balance.

Enyimba chairman Felix Anyansi Agwu, who signed him for the club, says Barcelona have picked up a real bargain.

“He is a fantastic player and his running, especially off the ball, is second to none,” Agwu said. “Barcelona will not regret getting him.”

Bassey, far left, played a key role in helping Enyimba to the Nigerian league title.

Bassey, far left, played a key role in helping Enyimba to the Nigerian league title.

4. Bassey’s injury jinx behind him

After playing a significant part in helping Enyimba to their record seventh title, Bassey was selected by Sunday Oliseh as a member of the Nigeria squad to the African Nations Championship, CAFs tournament for players who play in their domestic leagues.

But injury and a loss of form meant that Oliseh preferred to play Prince Aggreh and Osas Okoro in the wide areas, and even when he was thrown on as a substitute, Bassey failed to light up the competition as Nigeria made an early exit.

His woes continued when he returned to Enyimba with the coach Paul Aigbogun restricting him to substitute appearances. But he recovered enough of his form to be picked for the NPFL All Star trip to Spain. The rest as they say is now history.

5. A man of good fashion

Off the field, teammate and close friend Mfon Udoh says Ezekiel is a scrooge, but one with one weakness for clothes.

“He can spend a fortune on a good outfit, but in everything else, he is very conservative in spending.” Udoh said.

Both players have been friends since they were in academies, with Bassey playing for Emma Ntuk Academy in his native Akwa Ibom State.

Udoh was already at Enyimba when Bassey was recruited, and encouraged his friend to join him

“He called and asked me about the club and I told him he should come because he would get opportunities to play, just like me. That’s what convinced him to join Enyimba,” Udoh added.

Colin Udoh is a Nigeria football correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.

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