Knowledge Musona deserves another big-time shot with Anderlecht
It is rare these days that a transfer comes like a bolt rom the blue, surprising fans and the media, but the unveiling of Knowledge Musona by Belgian side Anderlecht on Wednesday did just that.
The Zimbabwe international had always been set to leave KV Oostende in this transfer window, having been such an impressive performer for them in the last three-and-a-half seasons.
But all the smart money appeared to be on a switch to Standard Liege, a great rival of Anderlecht, before the latter secured the 27-year-old on a four-year contract.
The signs should have been there though: Anderlecht are owned by former Oostende majority shareholder Marc Coucke, the man who took Musona to Belgium.
And just the day before, Coucke secured the services of Oostende defender Antonio Milic, also on a four-year deal with the ties between the two clubs clearly strong.
"Of course, I already know very well Antonio and Knowledge my time at KV Oostende, where I saw their progress over the last three years," Anderlecht sporting director Luc Devroe told his club's website.
"They have become important players and they are ready to move to the next level."
Welcome to RSCA, Antonio Milic, Knowledge Musona & Luka Adzic! 💪 📲 Ontdek hun eerste interview als #Sportingboys op de Official-app!— RSC Anderlecht (@rscanderlecht) May 23, 2018
Bienvenue au #RSCA, Antonio Milic, Knowledge Musona & Luka Adzic! 💪 📲 Découvrez leurs premières réactions sur l'app RSCA officielle! pic.twitter.com/teFubcIsKo
It is a big step up for Musona, who will be playing in the same league, but with far greater expectation.
He is a likely straight replacement for Nigerian forward Henry Onyekuru, who was on loan from English Premier League side Everton for the first half of last season until injury brought a premature end to his campaign.
It is, in a way, reminicint of Musona's move to German Bundesliga side Hoffenheim in 2011, when he suddenly had to cope with increased expectation after a successful spell with South African giants Kaizer Chiefs.
Musona managed just a single goal in 17 appearances for Hoffenheim in the 2011/12 season and was eventually loaned to German side FC Augsburg and then back to Chiefs.
He found the big-stage a step too far, but Musona will point out that he has more experience under his belt now. Perhaps that move to German came too early in his career, before he had sorted his own game out.
The step up from the PSL to the Bundesliga is huge and not one many players have made, but Musona now has six seasons in Europe under his belt and is playing next campaign in a league he knows very well.
Musona managed 40 goals in 96 starts for Oostende, a very healthy return, and so deserves another shot at a higher level.
There will be a measure of disappointment after a poor play-off campaign for Anderlecht saw the side pipped to the second UEFA Champions League qualification spot by, ironically, Standard. Anderlecht will instead compete in the UEFA Europa League, where they will start in the group stage.
He will also have a much greater chance of winning the Belgian league next season as one of the 'big three' in the country that also includes current champions Club Brugge.