One capped Super Eagle Imoh Ezekiel made an instant impact upon his return to the Middle East by finding the back of the net on his debut for Al Jaziri this week having been introduced in 71 minutes against FC Baniyas.
The match ended 3:1 in favour of Ezekiel’s club.
Having transferred from Belgium club Kortrijk in the latest transfer window, this will be Ezekiel’s second stint in the Middle East having kitted for Qatari club Al-Arabi in 2014 after transferring from another Belgium outfit Standard Liège.
For me, that was where Ezekiel’s decline as a serious minded footballer began.
The 27 year old striker is one of those players that many fans argue to this day should have been included in Late Stephen Keshi’s squads.
And it is difficult to argue against this position.
Between 2012 and 2014, Ezekiel scored an astonishing 32 goals in 93 games for Standard Liege in the Belgian League; and these goals were a beauty to behold (scored with left foot, right foot and with headers).
In short, for that period, Ezekiel – who was simply too hot to handle and too cold to hold in the Belgian League – was only given a few minutes by Keshi in a friendly against Mexico after coming on as a second half substitute to replace Victor Moses in March 2014.
I believe Ezekiel had all the makings to develop into a player like Algeria’s Riyadh Mahrez had he been prudent with his choice of clubs after leaving Liege.
However, rather than seek continuous development as a footballer, he elected to go to Qatar at the ripe young age of 21.
This news shocked the football world at the time but a lot of people believed that he chose to enrich his pocket instead of advancing his career.
“Is it not to better his life financially as well as improve as a player? So anybody that says my player (Ezekiel) signed for Al Arabi because of the financial incentives, such person or persons is not far from the truth,” said Gafar Liameed (the coach of Standard Liege at the time).
Unfortunately, Ezekiel might have profited financially, but his career suffered badly as a result of moving to Al-Arabi. His goals and overall productivity diminished after returning to Europe culminating in Kortrijk terminating his contract at the end of last season.
For a player that should still be an active Super Eagles International, he is now nowhere near attracting national team invitation.
So, was I surprised that he opened in account for Al-Jaziri? No, the potentials have always been there.
But I think he initially went to the Middle East at the most ill-advised period of his football career. This, I believe terminally harmed his progression as a footballer of repute.
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