NPFL chairman Shehu Dikko: Musa to play for free

Ahmed Musa will not be getting paid for a short stint with boyhood club Kano Pillars in the Nigeria Premier Football League.

Musa, 28, signed for the four-time Nigerian champions under the Elite Players Program of the League Management Company (LMC), which encourages top Nigerian internationals to play for local clubs.

Explaining the terms of the deal, Shehu Dikko, chairman of the LMC, told ESPN that the program works in two ways. A club can identify and sign such players, or the LMC itself can sign the player and assign them to a club of their choice.

It was the latter for Musa.

"We spoke to him about coming back home to play, and as someone who is always ready to give back, he did not hesitate," Dikko said.

"Once the agreement was signed, the choice of which club to play for was up to him. A number of clubs wanted him. We put everything in front of him and he made the decision to go to Kano Pillars."

According to Dikko, Musa dismissed any talk of remuneration.

"We didn't speak much about it. Musa is someone who is more concerned about giving back to the club that made him and he is not coming here to do this for money. He is not getting paid for playing for Pillars. That is the kind of person he is," Dikko said.

- Terem Moffi seeks and Nigeria call-up

The Nigeria captain was unveiled by the club on Thursday and could play his first game as early as April 28, when Pillars travel to Warri Wolves.

Although he will be the first current Super Eagles player and the first captain to be signed under the Elite Players Program, Musa is not the first player to return home under the program.

Former Super Eagles midfielder Sani Kaita played for Enyimba under the arrangement and goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba, who also played for the Super Eagles and won the CAF Champions League twice with Enyimba, currently plays for Kwara United.

Aiyenugba's presence -- he opened the season with four clean sheets in the opening four games -- has propelled Kwara United to the top of the league and the goalkeeper says his ambition is to win the title with his hometown club, to add to the four he won with Enyimba.

Dikko says he is hoping that Musa's decision opens the door for more international players to take advantage of the arrangement, to boost the image of the league and also prolong their careers

"I think there is an embarrassment among some of these players about coming back home to play, but I hope that with a player like Musa doing it, who is not only a top player, but also captain of the Super Eagles, others will feel more comfortable doing the same," Dikko said.

"Coming back home does not mean that they cannot return to Europe, but it is better than just staying there without playing games or staying at home.

"We would like to see players like John Ogu and Godfrey Oboabona come in and take advantage of the opportunity to elongate their careers while also boosting the league. Imagine if we had someone like Vincent Enyeama come in and what the young players could learn from him.

"Their presence would inspire many of the younger players and I believe they can also show them the benefit of their experience in Europe."

- Africans Abroad: Osimhen, Iheanacho, Onuachu star in Nigerian goal fiesta

Musa has been a free agent since October 2020, when he left Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr, with whom he won the Saudi Pro League title and Super Cup after joining them from Leicester City in 2018.

A proposed return to English football with West Bromwich Albion failed to materialise over financial issues. But sources tell ESPN that a return to England is still in the works, with offers from at least two promotion-chasing clubs under consideration.

He is also wanted by clubs in Turkey and his former club CSKA Moscow, with whom he enjoyed success in Russia, are also keen to see him back in their colours.

But Musa has told ESPN he is taking his time.

"In the end, I want something that will be good for my family so I don't want to rush," Musa said.