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Why Man Utd, Barcelona and all of Europe are excited about this Nigeria U20 generation

The transfer scramble is on.

The nation may have felt let down, but early elimination from this summer's U20 World Cup has not put off Europe's biggest clubs from swooping on Nigeria's best of a generation.

While eliminated at the quarterfinal stage by France, the 12 goals Nigeria scored in their group was a sure sign of the individual talent under coach John Obuh's charge.

The jewel from an outstanding group is striker Ahmed Musa, currently of newly promoted VVV Venlo in Holland.

The summer market shut last month with Musa still a VVV player - and happy with the development. Though courted by Tottenham last season, which was confirmed by VVV officials, the Nigerian feels he can progress at a better rate with another season in Holland.

"At VVV I can develop further in the coming season," said Musa. "Other foreign talents, like Tijani Babangida and Keisuke Honda, have come through this club and then made a big transfer away. I'm happy with VVV."

Having learned his trade in Nigeria with the Aminchi Football Academy, Musa was snapped up by VVV after setting a Nigerian Premier League scoring record with Kano Pillars as a 17 year-old. His exploits attracted the interest of bigger clubs, including Manchester United and Barcelona, but he chose the then Dutch Second Division outfit.

"It's true (about Barcelona and Manchester United), but I knew I wasn't ready to go directly to a top club," explained Musa.

Ajax were also keen after being tipped off about the Nigerian starlet by Babangida.

"He called me asking if I could help with finding a good club," revealed the Nigerian World Cup veteran. "I had conversations with people at Ajax and then I looked to get back in touch with Ahmed through his agent.

"Later I heard he was going to Venlo. Really a shame, because I think that Ahmed would have fitted in well with Ajax."

It was against Ajax earlier this season that Musa truly made his mark - scoring a brace and being named best afield in an exciting 2-2 draw.

Should this be his breakout season in Europe, Musa won't be alone in getting a big move among his Nigerian teammates.

Almost half the U20 squad were tipped to change clubs following the World Cup.

Terna Suswan, a stylish holding midfielder, has signed with Vitoria Setubal after trialling for two months with the Portuguese club.

Nigeria's captain, Ramon Azeez, signed for Almeria in Spain on transfer deadline day. The defensive midfielder was courted by Manchester United last year after a dazzling U17 World Championships. At Almeria, Azeez was joined by countryman Stanley Okoro, who penned a two-year deal with the Segunda Liga club - but then was sold to Albania's KS Skenderbeu Korce for their Champions League qualifying run.

Almeria saw off stiff competition from Valencia in the final days of the market to land Azeez.

Also in Spain, Nigeria U20 defender Aliyu Mohammed has signed with Villarreal. The left-back was cut by Obuh from his World Cup squad over concerns his club ambitions were affecting his on-field form.

Given the buzz around Obuh's graduates - and the excitement Fengor Ogude (Valerenga) and Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kyiv) created in India against Argentina - Nigeria coach Samson Siasia appears to have on his hands a golden generation leading into the 2014 World Cup.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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