Marvelous Nakamba was on cloud nine in November last year.
The Zimbabwean midfield enforcer was enjoying the form of his life under Steven Gerrard, who had just replaced Dean Smith in the Aston Villa dugout.
Gerrard’s arrival coincided with the rejuvenation of Nakamba, whose confidence levels were very low during Smith’s final days in charge.
Veteran commentator Jim Beglin even described the Hwange-bred star as the most improved player in the Premier League, after Nakamba had brilliantly blocked James Madison’s goal-bound shot during Villa’s meeting with Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
Nakamba was even voted the club’s Player of the Month for November, in arguably his most productive period since swaping the blue and black Club Brugge shirt, for the claret and blue of Villa in August 2019.
A knee injury against Liverpool at Anfield in December, stopped Nakamba in his tracks and Gerrard, naturally, was disappointed.
“The best way to put it is that we’ve had confirmation that he has got a knee injury,” the former Liverpool captain said after Villa’s 2-0 win over Norwich City and Carrow Road in December.
“We’re really going have a serious chat tomorrow in terms of whether we want him to have surgery or whether we’ll manage the injury conservatively.
“We’ll make that decision in the next 24 hours but he’s certainly going to be missing for some time because it’s a serious injury.
“We need to now make the best decision which is really frustrating and disappointing because he has been outstanding but we’ll give him every bit of support and care to get him back as safe as possible.
“We’ve got a rough idea but I don’t want to get wrong and I don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on the medical staff but he’ll certainly be missing for a number of months,” Gerrard added.
Nakamba bemoaned the setback but after going under the knife, he vowed to come back stronger.
“Injuries are frustrating at any time, but I’d just won the Player of the Month for the club and I was getting more game time,” Nakamba told the club’s website after undergoing surgery.
“Steven Gerrard and his new team came in and I’m grateful for the chance I got from them. I was enjoying the training and improving.
“Unfortunately, I got the injury and now I have to work hard on coming back stronger. It’s my first big injury since I started playing professional football, so I’ve had to be strong.
“People around me have been encouraging me but I also knew in myself that these things can happen. I have to focus on getting better, becoming stronger and stronger. I’m working on being stronger mentally, physically, everything,” added Nakamba.
The soft-spoken star fully recovered and returned to action in April but things haven’t been the same ever since.
Fast forward to November 2022, 12 months after being voted the Villa Player of the Month, the former Club Brugge man is struggling to make the Villa match day sqaud.
Three different coaches —Gerrard, caretaker coach Aaron Danks and the freshly-recruited Unai Emery, have all left the Warriors midfielder out of the Villa match day sqaud.
He has not featured for the Midlands side this season.