Next Best Thing; Nhlakanipho “Nanana” Ntuli

Nhlakanipho Ntuli (Twente)
Nhlakanipho Ntuli (Twente)
Nhlakanipho Ntuli (Amajita)
Nhlakanipho Ntuli (Amajita)

In a world where the “next best thing” is always a hot commodity, one cannot describe how pleasant it is to browse the papers over a pint skimming through an article about the next exciting football prospect worth going down to the betting store over and putting down some Randela’s on them becoming top class internationals. Now very few of these protégés end up becoming the greats they were hyped up to be by the glowing reviews, as my bookmakers bank balance will attest to; but the journeys  I have undergone tracking many of these young players has been worth every single penny scraped into a bet.

With many South African football fans having watched their South American counterparts bask in glory at the 2014 FIFA World Cup with thoroughbred Number 10’s leading the attacking symphony with authority and panache, players like James Rodriguez, Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. embody the creative nature of their respective countries when it comes to the art of football; in the technically blessed Nana, the football loving people of Mzansi have a lad that can develop into that calibre of Trequartista with the gifts and determination to be a true game changer. A natural number 10 with that extra composure that only the greats possess, capable of assessing his surroundings quickly and making the optimal decision in the quickest possible time and using his amazing passing range and technical proficiency to execute the pass and create abundant attacking opportunities. Nanana is a highly talented young player with the skill set and mental aptitude to define games and truly take us home.

Nhlakanipho Ntuli is the type of player that divides opinion in South African football, a proven star at youth level for both club and country yet he left Mzansi without playing in the Premier Soccer League. It is rare to see young players afforded a chance to play first team football in South African football, and it becomes even harder for talented young players at the more reputable clubs; a player like Nana stands a better chance of fulfilling his potential by moving overseas to clubs in leagues that do advocate playing younger players and afford them the opportunities they require to fully develop and become as great as they can possibly be. At 18, the beaming smile donning magician could well be a regular fixture in the Eredivisie before his 21st birthday, and that will be down to a combination of blessings, determination, skills, hard work, dedication and opportunity.

Having begun his football education at the Orlando Pirates academy as a baby faced twelve year old protégé, Ntuli developed his attacking nous under the tutelage of a man who has given Mzansi endless quality young players and promoted an attacking brand of football that is distinctly South African and structured around expression of self when on the football field. Augusto Palacios is a largely unheralded figure in South African football as a whole, a man that has given us attacking marvels like Joseph Makhanya, Benedict Vilakazi, Gift Leremi and Lebohang Mokoena to amaze and enthral us; now Njenje has blessed us with yet another young star to have us in awe, and the captivating Nanana could just be the best one yet. Having signed his first professional deal with the 5-year agreement between him and FC Twente a testament to the faith both parties have in each other to fulfil both the personal and team ambitions that have been laid forth, the future is bright for the eighteen year old wunderkind and he has the support necessary for a promising young player to master his craft and develop into the world class player that his potential has classed him as. Developing his craft in the Jong FC Twente side that competes in the Eerste Divisie (Second Division) allows Ntuli to hone his skills in competitive football without exerting too much pressure on him to perform at his optimal level just yet, this can only work wonders for the maturity of his overall game and give him the consistency he requires to establish himself as a fixture when he breaks into the first team squad. The Tukkers are an ambitious side back on the rise after a period of uncertainty and financial instability, the team is built on a foundation of good Dutch players and top young imports that add quality to the first team squad; Nanana has the chance to enter professional football in the type of settled and ambitious environment that a Trequartista thrives in.

Nhlakanipho is the modern age Number 10, capable of orchestrating fluent attacking moves or taking the initiative and exhibiting the mettle to score the goals that his team needs. A great Trequartista is more than just a creation blessed with amazing football skills and creativity to make Mozart envious, a truly legendary Number 10 is blessed with the ability to inspire confidence whenever he is on the team sheet, being capable of showing his class when its needed most and becoming a genuine game changer; Nana is undeniably that type of player, a true star in winning-time since he was eye-level with a kitchen counter. Ntuli is just one of few talented young players in Europe making the sacrifice of developing their football away from their countries of birth, in an effort to become fully complete professionals that can be quality players and worthy ambassadors for their nation. With Ntuli accompanied by young starlets like Dean Patricio and Miguel Dias, who are at PEC Zwolle, in the quest to establish themselves as professionals in Dutch football and star alongside fellow South African stars in Thulani Serero and Kamohelo Mokotjo who are established players in the Eredivisie for Ajax Amsterdam and PEC Zwolle respectively. The COSAFA u-20 Champion has shown already at youth level that he has the abilities to lead a solid side to success, Bob’s your Om this lad has the makings of a true legend; his undeniable quality lead to Dr. Irvin Khoza bringing the Number. 10 jersey out of retirement for the talented Nanana.

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