By Camden Bauman
There have been traceable links and connections in Aston Villa’s transfer business this summer, as Villa hastily tried to build a team unit. There’s the three players from have made last season’s loan status permanent, two former players of Dean Smith, three former teammates from Club Brugge’s 2017–18 Championship-winning side, two Brazilians and now a second Egyptian.
While Nakamba was the third member of that Brugge side we’ve signed, the Zimbabwean midfielder also has a link with fellow Villa summer signing Trezeguet, as they both share the same sports agency, DW Sports Management.
Coincidence? With around 30 players on their roster, the agency may have firmed up talks with Villa’s scouting department about Marvelous, when discussing Trezeguet, considering Villa did have other targets in that position.
With a name like Marvelous Nakamba, the midfielder was always worth signing, for his name alone, although the fact that Jack Woodward has been allowed back into Villa’s in-house media department, already has MOMS wincing at the potential commentary cringe to come.
The fee Villa have played for the Brugge midfielder is rumoured to be around £11 million, which is actually less than the fee for Douglas Luiz, who will be his main competition for a berth in the Villa midfield.
Does that mean the highly-rated Zimbabwean is coming in to be a squad player or will he be the main anchor to the Aston Villa midfield?
What Has He Done?
Nakamba started his career off in his homeland, making his senior side debut at the age of 16 for Bantu Rovers in 2010. By the end of 2012, he was on trial at Nancy in Ligue 1. The trial would soon turn into a permanent move and Nakamba would spend the next two seasons playing for Nancy’s second team and make two appearances for the first team in Ligue 2.
The 2014/15 season would bring Nakamba a fresh start as he was signed by Vitesse in the Eredivisie on a free transfer.
Even though Marvelous only made eight appearances for the senior team, he was starting to show the potential that brought him to Europe. The 2015/16 season turned into Nakamba’s breakout season, as he made 31 appearances in the Eredivisie for Vitesse and was considered by their fans as one of their better performers.
The 2016/17 season proved Nakamba was not a one hit wonder either, as he made another 30 appearances for Vitesse and was posting an average rating of over 7.0 on WhoScored.com (the third highest in the team), backing up what the supporters thought of him. He would be a part of the Vitesse team that also won the Dutch Cup for the first time in their history.
With these impressive performances, Nakamba made a move to Club Brugge for a fee around £2.7 million and again won silverware. The Zimbabwean international was integral to Club Brugge’s 2017/18 Jupiler Pro League winning season.
Nakamba made 35 league appearances and 44 overall for Brugge and the links to big clubs started flying in from all over Europe, ranging from Liverpool to Galatasaray.
For the 2018/19 season, Marvelous Nakamba had a few injury niggles and made 23 appearances for Club Brugge last season, with five of those in the UEFA Champions League, where he helped Brugge to notable 0-0 draws with both Borussia Dortmund and Atlético Madrid, as well as a 4-0 away win at Monaco.
What Does He Bring to the Table?
Not sure how well known the term is known outside of the United States as the term “ballhawk” is usually used in American football or basketball, but it perfectly describes Nakamba’s play.
A ballhawk is player known for his ability to track down the ball and make an interception or get a steal in basketball.
Taking a look at Nakamba’s highlights, the midfielder flies in for tackles and will chase down any player in front of the defense. The Zimbabwean has the ability to capitalize on any touch that strays just a hair too far away from the dribbler, gain possession, and push forward to start an attack.
This mentality in a Villa midfielder has not been seen at this level in recent memory, apart from Glenn Whelan doing a slow-motion version. McGinn is clearly a workhorse and will fly all over the pitch to make an interception, but Nakamba is more of the deep-lying midfielder who can sit back and pick off passes.
Something that may not be mentioned too much with how Nakamba’s role as an anchor may be perceived, but Marvelous can play the ball all over the pitch.
As seen with players like Mile Jedinak who play a similar role, Nakamba is not going to disappear when Villa push into the final third of the field. He can push forward and be dangerous in the final third with a killer ball or starting off a counterattack with a through ball from his own half. He shows the vision and awareness to find space to split defenders with a pass, unlike most deep-lying midfielders, who tend to sit closer to midfield if the attack needs to reset.
One of the best parts of his game, the former Fiorentina target is great on the ball. He has the ability to carry forward with confidence that matches a potential midfield partner John McGinn.
He really has no problem in pushing the ball forward from deep midfield and transitioning into an attack. As seen in the above highlights, Nakamba will quickly move from a tackle to start pushing the ball into space to allow the transition to develop around him.
Combine that with his quickness and a sprinkle of flair, and Nakamba will be tricky for most players that line up against him.
Is Marvelous the Answer?
The story that has been circling around the transfer is that Villa have been monitoring the progress of Marvelous Nakamba for quite some time. Allegedly, Nakamba has been away from Club Brugge to help push the move forward, showing that he is relishing the opportunity to play with Villa in the Premier League.
For Villa, they are getting the defensive midfielder they have been looking for, that can really do it all. Nakamba is an all-around midfielder with an affinity to close down on any player on the ball.
However, does that make him the final piece of the midfield trio alongside Jack Grealish and John McGinn?
Looking at the other options Villa have; I think he should be the man at the heart of the midfield behind Grealish and McGinn. Where Grealish is the true attacking presence, McGinn is the box-to-box man, Nakamba fills in as the defensive muscle Villa have lacked.
Certainly against RBLeipzig it was obvious the defence could do with some cover while they tune into each other’s frequencies over the initial Premier League games.
Villa have relied on their centre-backs to step in and make those vital tackles in the past, so Nakamba will provide a much-needed buffer.
Of course, Nakamba may have to beat Luiz to a first team shirt, but the competition should initially raise both player’s games.
A trio of Nakamba, McGinn, and Grealish, would present a challenge to any Premier League team in the bottom half of the table.
Against the Top Four or better teams in the division, Dean Smith may opt for two defensive midfielders with Nakamba sitting alongside Douglas Luiz. The Villa head coach, certainly has the personnel now to give him tactical options.
With Club Brugge’s initial asking price around £20 million just at the start of the summer, this may turn out to be a great piece of business by Aston Villa.
Former links to major European clubs shows that Nakamba has the pedigree and at 25-years-old, he has yet to play his best football.
Follow Camden on Twitter here @CamdenBauman