February 27, 2024

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6 years ago Anderlecht was hit by the Etihad virus: How is Issoufou Nyakatti still the same?

6 years ago Anderlecht was hit by the Etihad virus: How is Issoufou Nyakatti still the same?

Is Anderlecht or Union the better club in Brussels? A question that seemed stupid for a long time is now justified. In 2018, a forgotten sensation planted the first seeds of a change in power. Six years later, we wondered: How is Yusufu Nyakati still the same?

What is your first memory of Royale Union Saint-Gilloise?

Readers over fifty will no doubt return to the glorious past of the cult club. For many others, the first encounter is more recent in memory.

On 27 September 2018, Union – then leaders of the Second Division – will once again present themselves to the public in the 16th final of the Belgian Cup after decades in the shadow of Belgian football.

An innocent hand secured a dream draw against city rival Anderlecht. At the time, the people of Brussels had been yearning for a new derby since 1979.

Hein Vanhaezebrouck's purple and white starts (of course) as the towering favourite. Although the names in the starting eleven – see below – are nothing to sneeze at.

Anderlecht lineup: Bockx, Najjar (69' Sailemakers), Frangis, Sanneh, Bornau, Coomes, Morioka (68' Santini), Makarenko, Jerkens, Kayembe (58' Amuzu), Demata.

Union preparation: Susez, David, Berdichesi, Kiss, Vega, Pisochko (80' Per), Morin, Nyakatti (87' Ferber), Tau (67' Girard), Slimani, Tabiko.

Union present themselves fearlessly at Astrid Park and, thanks to coach Luka Elsner, start the match with a clear plan: attack on the counter-attack.

Crucial to this approach is Youssoufou Nyakati.

Given his numerous goals, all 1B followers already know the reputation of a financial whirlwind, but it was in the match against Anderlecht that he would really make a name for himself.

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Just before half-time, Nyakati mercilessly scored for the first time after an assist from Percy Tau – remember him? Fifteen minutes from time, the striker, who had come for a pittance from French side Boulogne a few months earlier, punished a foul from Frank Boucs. A few minutes later, Nyakati completed his hat-trick.

0-3 La Union at Anderlecht: a result that will go down in the history books.

“Nia-Nia-Nia-Nia-Nia-Nia-Niakaté” echoes from the visitors' section and is later sung for hours through the streets of Saint-Gillis.

Profitable transfer

Six years later, Nyakati still remembers that legendary evening with a big smile.

“It is a moment I will never forget in my life,” the Mali international said after the African Cup.

“When I talk about it now, I still get goosebumps. No one saw us win in advance, but honestly: I knew we had every chance. The pressure on Anderlecht was much greater than on us. And we had a team with a lot of players.” Quality and ambition.”

What happened to the Union after that is known to everyone.

After the thrilling match against Anderlecht, the people of Brussels had to wait another two seasons for promotion to the top flight, but they have now been at the top for three years. Including some European stunts.

Furthermore, Union have won 7 of their last 8 meetings against Anderlecht. So Nyakati planted a Derby virus that the purple and white couldn't seem to get rid of.

It was just an offer I couldn't refuse financially.

Yusufu Nyakati

But what was the financial sensation journey like in reality?

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Unlike other successful Union strikers – such as Deniz Ondav (Brighton) and Victor Boniface (Leverkusen) – perhaps no one knows where Nyakati went.

Well, in the summer of 2018, the striker signed a multi-year contract with Al-Wahda in Saudi Arabia, where Ronaldo and Benzema were not yet in a hurry.

“I’ll be very honest about it,” Nyakati said. “It was simply an offer I could not refuse financially. Some European clubs were also interested, but with this move I was able to secure the future of my entire family. Moreover, it showed Al-Wahda that they really wanted me.”

In the Saudi Professional League, Nyakati, who also played for Al-Ittifaq and Al-Ittihad, has an excellent record of 36 goals in 94 matches.

Last summer, another lucrative move to Baniyas FC in the UAE followed, with 31-year-old Nyakati scoring 5 goals in 12 appearances.

No regrets on the course

Just: Does it bother Nyakati that he left the federation before the really big breakout? Or at least taken a step towards major competition?

“I have no reason to show remorse,” the three-time former fashion pioneer emphasized.

“Al-Ittihad (which received 2 million, editor) and I emerged victorious from this transfer. I also felt good with my family in Saudi Arabia – it is a country that loves football.”

“And such a move to the Premier League or the Bundesliga? (Hits) You never know how it's going to end, you know. My path was a bit unusual, but I had a good time.”

Nyakati enjoys Al Ittihad's successes at least as much as it has its own fans.

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“Of course I still follow the club,” he laughs. “I barely played there for a year, but Union will remain in my heart forever. Last year I went to watch the Europa League match against Union Berlin during my holiday. It's amazing what they achieve.”

“However, I am not surprised. Even during my time it was clear that it was not a ridiculous project. The resources were great for a second-tier team. I think that Union has not yet reached its ceiling. In fact: this is still just the beginning. “