The Belgian League might not have the biggest stars of the game of football in their ranks, but this season, they are sure to produce players that have the capability to go and become world-class. There is Royal Antwerp’s goal-scoring freak Geroge Ilenikhena, then there is his Atletico Madrid-bound Arthur Vermeeren, his teammate. However, another player who has carved out a reputation for himself in this season of the Jupiler Pro League is Antonio Nusa, who has now joined Premier League side Brentford in the winter transfer window.
Nusa, who has only become a regular part of Club Brugge’s senior squad this season, has witnessed a rapid rise from the youth ranks to a Premier League transfer And his rise is not surprising considering the number of clubs looking for young gems in Belgium.
So, what will Nusa bring to Brentford next season (he will stay at Brugge on loan for the remainder of the season and how good is he?
Antonio Nusa profile
Antonio Nusa was born on April 17, 2005, in Langhus, Norway. His father was from Nigeria, while his mother was Norwegian. With a population of 13,000, Langhus was a sparsely populated place which has produced several notable Norwegian singers and bands. However, Nusa had a sole goal: becoming a professional footballer.
This is why his father enrolled him on the local club Langhus IL, which currently plays in the fourth tier of the Norwegian league system. Two years were enough for his talent to outgrow the club.
Nusa needed the experience of a top league club, so in 2018, he left for Stabæk Fotball, a club which played in Eliteserien, the top division in the country.
For the next two years, Nusa would grind in the youth ranks before he was handed his league debut on May 30, 2021, against Rosenborg. Nusa took no time to settle in his favoured left-wing position, scoring his maiden goal in just his third start. In the next game, he scored a brace to help his team win a point.
Nusa ended the season with three goals in 11 appearances, a tremendous return. However, it was one of the few positives for the team as they were relegated after finishing second from bottom.
It was time for Nusa to leave, and Club Brugge was the quickest to snap him up.
Antonio Nusa stats
While it was a good move for Nusa to join Club Brugge, the gulf in quality between the two leagues meant that he had to prove his worth in the youth ranks again. And Nusa wasted no time as he started to deliver from the start. He scored two goals by representing the youth team in the UEFA Youth League. By the end of the season, he would break into the senior squad, making his debut on February 13, 2022. Club Brugge finished second behind the Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, but in the Belgian league, the top four teams play in a round-robin format to decide the champion.
It was risky to put a teenager into this trial of fire, but manager Scott Parker put his trust in him. He delivered in his first game, coming off as a substitute in the final three minutes and scoring.
He would play the final game as Club Brugge finished top of the table to secure the championship. Nusa had proven his worth at the highest stage under the most pressure and was duly rewarded the following season.
From there, he has been an integral part of the team, but in 2023-24, Nusa started to catch the attention of the big clubs.
Antonio Nusa style of play
Nusa’s greatest strength is his brilliance in dribbling, which he uses to create one-on-one situations with the opposition’s right back. An interesting observation from his heatmap is that he is equally adept at cutting back inside to get the ball on his stronger foot or to go out on the wings and deliver a cross into the box.
His bipedalism always keeps defenders guessing on where he would take the ball. Another area where Nusa shines is his ability to dribble his way out when he takes the ball near the corner. What Nusa tried to do is to get close to the penalty box and deliver the cross. This reduces the distance between him and his teammate, which greatly increases the accuracy of the cross.
The only area where Nusa has struggled massively is his ability to track back. While at a club like Brugge, he can escape from it. But at a club like Tottenham that plays a brand of football where the wingers need to track back to help the fullbacks out, Nusa will need to alter his style.
Antonio Nusa potential
Nusa will join Brentford permanently come July 1. When he will leave, he will find himself facing the toughest challenge that any footballer faces. Until now, Nusa has always played in an environment where he was the main star and the most talented.
The Premier League is a different beast altogether, and Nusa might not be afforded the same luxury. This means he will have to fight for every minute and then deliver too to keep himself in the running.
Will he be able to do it remains to be seen, but Nusa has very well earned the right to play among the best.