Slovenian Maribor sign Ishaq Rafiu from Rivers United

By Oviri Kelvin, Sports Editor

Slovenia topflight NK Maribor 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.

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“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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