First came the shock. The dust had barely settled from Nigeria’s heart-wrenching exit from the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the hands of Argentina, when Victor Moses decided to call time on his Super Eagles career, a time that spanned three tournaments, two of them World Cups. Nigerians were still coming to terms with the team’s brave but ultimately futile efforts in Russia, when one of its poster boys, if you could say that, and mainstays over the past few years opted to leave the international scene.
Then came the questions, or at least the thoughts of the questions. Why leave? Why leave now? At the age of 27, and not with the most blossoming club career, in truth. Many were stunned over this development, not so much the effect it’d have on the national side, but rather the reasons behind Moses’ decision. It was almost alien to logic, but ultimately there was little the country could do, all that was left was to bid Moses a fitting goodbye, remember his impact in the national side – scoring two crucial goals in a Nations Cup win over Ethiopia in 2013, his double against Algeria in a World Cup qualifier in 2016, etc. – and move on, players come and go, after all.
But six months on, if anyone was looking back and second-guessing that decision, it certainly won’t be the Super Eagles. That’s if the national team or the country itself can even cast its mind back to the summer. Not until talk of federation president Amaju Pinnick flying to meet with Moses surfaced did we remember that we did have a Victor Moses playing for us previously.
In fact, it’s not outlandish to say that’s the first time in a while that people actually remembered Moses. The former Super Eagles has been side-lined since Maurizio Sarri replaced Antonio Conte in the summer, so far it’s been one League Cup start and substitute appearances in two Premier League games, two Europa League games, and the Community Shield, and this weekend he could get a place on the bench in the FA Cup game against Nottingham Forest.
Not that Moses’ alienation was shocking. Up until Conte arrived in 2016, and started to deploy a back-three formation, Moses was perennially loaned out, having already had temporary stints at Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham. Sarri’s switch to back-four was always going to spell trouble for Moses, who looks quite flawed as a winger, and would be worse as a right-back, and thus wing-back was the one position where his positives could be accentuated at a side like Chelsea, He never really fit in until Conte took over, and even then, in the latter days of Conte’s tenure, he was starting to be seen, not without reason, as a weak link in the side. Truth be told, since he moved to Chelsea in 2012, his greatest playing moments – not particularly trophy-wise – has been with the Super Eagles.
The national side was just about the one place where his defects could get overlooked, where a sense of permanence lay for him. When all else wasn’t going well, he was always at least known as ‘Super Eagles’ Victor Moses’. He had a Hail Mary, now he no longer does. Talk of Pinnick flying in to talk with him – unnecessary, to be fair – may show that Moses is second-guessing his decision to leave, and him not debunking those rumours may mean he’s probably open to a return, but we hardly need him.
Since Moses bid farewell to the Super Eagles, we’ve looked rather spoilt for choice at the right wing. Samuel Kalu looks very much tailor-made to make the berth his own, even if his consistency is quite lacking, Henry Onyekuru is another option, and he’s regular at Galatasaray, and then there’s the rising star that is Samuel Chukwueze, currently impressing at Villarreal. Not to mention Moses Simon, who’s still struggling to get back on his feet since his injury in 2017, but at least he hasn’t called time on his international career.
It’s quite the conundrum that Moses has himself in; he can’t find a place in the Chelsea, not even long enough to push for a move elsewhere, and he can’t do that with the national side he’s left behind, and in this particular window, where signings come as a form of emergency and urgency, where short-termism is the aim, where signings need to hit the ground running, clubs aren’t exactly lining up to take a punt on a player who’s very much not match sharp, nobody wants to delve into the unknown at this stage.
The Super Eagles have more options. Chelsea have better options. Other clubs in need can look elsewhere. Some six months after Victor Moses bid farewell to the national team, the only party that looks worse off is the one who wouldn’t have expected to: Victor Moses.