LONDON — LIVERPOOL and Everton are in a battle to sign Chesterfield midfield sensation Tendayi Darikwa.
Report by Daily Star/Sports Reporter
Nottingham-born Darikwa (21) already carries a £2m rating after 27 starts for the Spireites.
He is being tracked by a host of Premier League sides, but the Mersey giants are front-runners for his signature.
Anfield boss Brendan Rodgers and Goodison chief David Moyes have had Darikwa watched on a weekly basis over the past few months.
Darikwa, who was the Football League Young Player of the Month for December, recently signed a new three-year deal with the League Two outfit.
But the Derbyshire minnows, who once took up former Highlanders midfielder Honour Gombami on trial, are resigned to losing their prize asset to the top flight.
Chesterfield boss Paul Cook said: “Tendayi is already a very good footballer. He is going to have a very good career.”
He is the second Zimbabwean in England after Bradley Pritchard who turns out for Charlton Athletic. He was called for last year’s World Cup match against Guinea by then coach Rahman Gumbo, but did not play.
He remains in the plans of new coach Klaus Dieter Pagels.
Another Zimbabwean, Australian Super-A League goalkeeper Tando Yuji Velaphi, has asked to be considered for the Warriors.
The Melbourne Victory goalie, who has represented Australia at age-group level making him eligible to play for Zimbabwe, has a Zimbabwean father and a Japanese mother.
Velaphi, who is 25, joins a chorus of young Zimbabweans abroad who want to play for the Warriors. Some of them are Cecil Nyoni at Sheffield Wednesday, Farai Hallam of Stevenage (who play in the same league as Warriors defender Onesimo Bhasera’s Plymouth), Mikaeel White of Barnet and even young whizkid Jonathan Fusco at Sheffield Wednesday.
Already Zimbabwe have lost out on Adam Henley who is at Blackburn who might play for Wales or the United States. Marc David Wilson who is at Stoke has been called up in Northern Ireland though he has not represented them yet.
Darikwa has been receiving rave reviews in the UK lately and a move to one of the big clubs cannot be ruled out.
In late September Tommy Wright, now assistant to Paul Cook, but back then running the first team following the departure of John Sheridan, pushed him into an attacking position for the trip to Northampton. It was Darikwa’s first league start.
“There was nothing particularly tactical about the decision,” Wright told BBC Sport. “We had a few injuries and I knew he would work hard.
“Since then he has flourished. What has happened to him over the last six months is massive. It has got to the point where you can see other teams worrying about how to stop him.”
Cook took over as manager in late October and shortly afterwards gave Darikwa a new three-year deal.
“I don’t think he is very good,” deadpanned the affable Cook when asked what he thought of Darikwa.
“I think everyone should leave him alone. I think he is going backwards at the minute.”
But in truth he readily acknowledges that in a short space of time Darikwa, who usually plays on the right side of an attacking trio behind a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, has become one of his key players.
“He is already a very good footballer and he is going to have a very good career,” Cook said.
“We all want young lads to be in the team, but they must be good enough — and he certainly is.”
“The biggest thing about Tendayi has always been his desire and his attitude in training,” added Wright, who had nothing but generous words for a young man he clearly rates very highly.
“He is very level headed and a pleasure to work with. I wish there were a lot more like him.”
Cook reckons that joining a professional club at a relatively late age may have worked in Darikwa’s favour, arguing “it can leave you with that bit more hunger, desire and scope for improvement”.