Ishaq Rafiu’s our player as Rivers United debunk deal

by Oviri Kelvin, Sports Editor, Abuja

  • Plans to report issue to FIFA
  • I’m glad we got Rafiu- Maribor

Rivers United have condemned the report making the rounds that Ishaq Rafiu has signed for Slovenia’s top-flight NK Maribor on a three-year deal asserting that the player belongs to them.

The winners of the recently concluded Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) stated that the forward still has an existing contract with the club.

According to the management in a statement on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, to debunk the news which was reported on Maribor official website, the purported move by Rafiu whose contract with the Pride of Rivers is still binding will amount to a breach of contract.

The NPFL champions added that they have resolved to report the issue to world football governing body as they are only aware that the player absconded from the club.

The club statement read: “The attention of the Management of Rivers United football club of Port Harcourt has been drawn to a fictitious report being circulated in a section of the social media suggesting that our player Ishaq Rafiu Kayode has left the club.

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“Such report is completely false and a product of the imagination of mischief makers with the intent of misleading the unsuspecting members of the public.

“Ishaq Rafiu Kayode is still a bonafide player of Rivers United FC as his contract with the team is still valid and as such, any purported transfer without the knowledge and consent of Rivers United FC will only be a breach of contract.

“As a club, we are not aware of any such purported transfer as the player only absconded from the club and this position has been made known to FIFA thus any acquisition of the player without our consent is null and void.

“It is important to also note that Rivers United FC remain the only club that can release the said player to any other club when the proper things are done,” the statement concluded.

Earlier, FK Maribor reported that they have signed Rivers United attacker Ishaq Rafiu for a three-year deal after the Nigerian won the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) trophy in the recently concluded 2021-22 season.

The Slovenian PrvaLiga club, on their official website, said that the Nigerian striker would have emerged the top-scorer of last season’s NPFL if not for his debut for the Super Eagles against Mexico and Ecuador during the international break.

According to the club sports director, Marko Šuler, the 21-year-old forward represents the present and future to bolster the team’s attacking option. Additionally, he also comes to add his qualities  centred on physical strength, speed and penetration.

“We had to react, to expand the staff we also need a new solution in the wing positions,” the sports director said.

“I’m glad we got the deal done, Ishaq is here as a player for the present and the future. He comes with good recommendations, like the Nigerian champion. Last season he scored 14 goals, if he played all the matches until the end, he could also become the top scorer in the championship.

“He is a player with penetration, speed and concreteness and with rarely seen physical strength. It can mean an appropriate choice for the purpose of realizing our competitive goals, but also for a further step forward from Maribor, which the players from Nigeria often prove as a breeding ground for talent,” Marko Šuler added.

Maribor stressed that they were lucky to secure the highly coveted player who was on the radar of several clubs seeking to snatch him away likewise.

However, the Purples explained that the former Pride of Rivers’ forward was very cooperative during the negotiation which affirms that the player will bring the desired result in their attacking option.

He continued: “In the meantime, he has already found himself under the scrutiny of many clubs, so we managed to catch the right moment to lure him to Ljudski vrt. From the beginning of the talks, he had a desire to come, all matters came together in the desired mosaic and we got a player who brings us a new dimension in the offensive part.”

Meanwhile, Ishaq said that he chose to sign for Maribor despite having offers from European clubs because it is the best choice to develop him further.

“I am very happy that we agreed and that I signed the contract. After playing in the top tier of the competition in Nigeria and after winning the championship, I had quite a few offers from clubs from Europe, I decided to move to Maribor because I believe that the best Slovenian club is currently the most suitable choice for me as the next step on the development path,” he said.

“As a multiple national champion and a long-term participant in European competitions, Maribor makes it possible for a football player to do what he wants. I am looking forward to a new challenge in my career, I want to contribute my share on the field and I can’t wait to meet my teammates, the professional staff and join the training sessions.

“I got a lot of information about the club and also heard about the great support of the fans. I believe that together we will bring them many reasons to be satisfied, with new victories and winning trophies,” added Ishaq.

A further statement by the club reveals that the deal is still subject to Ishaq’s arrival to conclude the paperwork. “The transitions between continents are specific at the moment and will require some time to coordinate all the necessary matters, so Ishaq will join the team later.”

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