Rabiu Ibrahim – 19-year-old starlet tracked by Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United currently a free agent

Rabiu IbrahimAn unfortunate turn of events has left one of the most promising African talents without a club.

The creative midfielder burst to stardom at 16 years of age after enjoying an incredibly successful U-17 World Cup 2007 with Nigeria, guiding his national team to winning the prestigious competition with a series of impressive displays.

His precocious performances earned him a ‘Star Player’ title from FIFA that year which certainly helped generate a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the player.

He was duly featured as one of World Soccer Magazine’s ’50 Most Exciting Teenagers on the Planet’ along with a host of other magazines and websites claiming he is a world beater in the making.

With interest soon expressed by top European outfits such as Manchester United , Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, it emerged that Sporting CP Lisbon had already signed the player on a youth contract and had beaten the chasing pack in the race for his services.

Ibrahim’s career was on the rise and he was on the brink of making his first senior Nigeria appearance in the African Cup of Nations in 2008 but a groin injury kept him out of contention.

The player reportedly left Sporting, after twice rejecting their contract offers, two years after joining, with just one appearance to his name.

Apparently, Scottish giants Celtic had an offer on the table for the youngster, who was keen on the move, but the deal never materialised due to undisclosed reasons believed to involve work permit issues.

As the player never represented Nigeria at senior level, he could only be eligible for a move to the UK through a ‘Special Talent’ visa, such as the one handed to Brazilian midfielder Denilson upon signing for Arsenal.

More recently, Dutch Eredivisie outfit VVV Venlo was interested in signing the midfielder and had reportedly given him a trial, but negotiations collapsed apparently due to financial issues.

This meant that the prodigious prospect has suddenly found himself without a team ahead of the new season.

Described as the new Jay-Jay Okocha due to his similarities with the Nigerian great in terms of playing style and an excellent left-foot, Rabiu Ibrahim boasts technical skills, dribbling ability, creativity, flair and vision far superior to that of most players of his age.  It is evident there is something special about the number 10.

The 19-year-old has so far appeared for the Nigeria U-17 and U-20 sides a total of 13 times, scoring six goals and creating a plethora of chances in the process.

Despite of his situation remaining unclear at this point, his talent alone will apparently be enough to earn Ibrahim a call-up to join the senior Nigeria team ahead of the African Cup of Nations in 2011, with Nigeria coach Shuaibu Amodu recently hailling the player as having the potential to “reach the heights of top stars like Messi”.

Certainly, Ibrahim is a massive talent who could go on to become a top class player, but he will need to work on the physical aspect of his game as his slight build means he will find it hard to adjust to a more aggressive game with stronger opponents muscling him off the ball.

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