Calvin Stengs (24) was the transfer priority of Antwerp in this summer window. At the end of July, Marc Overmars reached an agreement with OGC Nice for a definitive transfer of the Dutch forward worth six Million Euros, with bonuses as well as a significant resale percentage.
Antwerp had even made an extra financial effort to convince Stengs to sign for the club, and a four-year contract was waiting for him.
Despite these great efforts, Stengs eventually opted for a transfer to Feyenoord, where he will earn an annual net salary of 1.25 million Euros, making him the best-paid player in that team.
Overmars spent months intensively working on the Calvin Stengs file, but he also had to stick to his budget.
“And if it doesn’t work out, we will move on,” Antwerp Director of Football told Het Nieuwsblad during the close season.
Barely four days after Stengs transfer to Feyenoord was officially completed, Antwerp switched quickly with the arrival of Chidera Ejuke (25).
The eight-time Nigerian international is very versatile offensively, because he can play in all positions in the attack.
By the way, Antwerp did not pay a transfer fee for Ejuke, because the Russian war in Ukraine meant that he could leave CSKA Moscow for free.
“It was an important decision for Chidera Ejuke to leave so that he can continue to progress in his career,” one of his agents explained the decision to leave CSKA Moscow.
In 2017, Ejuke took his first steps in Europe with the Norwegian Valerenga, after which SC Heerenveen bought him for 2 million Euros.
In Friesland he became a great revelation and grew into one of the top stars of the Eredivisie.
Algemeen Dagblad described him as a pearl, and technical manager Gerry Hamstra was very enthusiastic about the attacker. “We had expectations that he could become a crowd pleaser with his dribbles. He turned out to be a bull’s eye.”
Chidera Ejuke soon turned out to be untenable for sc Heerenveen and three years ago he was bought away by CSKA Moscow for no less than 11.5 million Euros.
This transfer still makes the 25-year-old the third most expensive sale in Heerenveen club history today, after Afonso Alves (17 million Euros, Middlesbrough) and Miralem Sulejmani (16.25 million euros, Ajax).
At the time of the sale, Heerenveen was struggling with a financial deficit of six million euros, but the lucrative sale of Ejuke more than filled that gap.
On the sporting side though, the sale of Ejuke meant a serious loss.
“There aren’t many of those,” Gerry Hamstra said at the time. “I have mixed feelings. We lose a super player.”
Chidera Ejuke has an interesting profile as he can play in all attacking positions. By nature he is a left flank attacker, but he also often played on the right and even as a second striker.
Het Nieuwsblad reports that he has to give the national champion extra panache and goals, but the fans of Antwerp can especially look forward to many actions and dribbles.
In his Eredivisie days, Ejuke was at one point the absolute dribbling king and at CSKA Moscow he was among the top dribblers in the world, with only Adama Traoré (then Wolverhampton Wanderers) and Nahuel Luján (then Universidad de Chile) having more successful dribbles per match.
Chidera Ejuke is often compared to the legendary ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha by the fans in Nigeria because of his playing style, although that comparison may be a bit exaggerated.
It is a fact that Ejuke is known for his skill in actions and dribbles, which can make him a real attraction in the Jupiler Pro League.
“I like to make actions. That’s why I play football,” he told Omrop Fryslan at the time. “That’s why I once started playing football. I want to win most, but I also want to entertain the audience.”
Ejuke combines his numerous dribbles and actions with high speed. Last season, when he played on loan at Hertha BSC, Ejuke was the fastest player with a recorded top speed of no less than 35.05 km/h.
Although Chidera Ejuke was not part of pre-season, he still arrived at Antwerp in top shape. Conditionally he still has to build up to be able to claim his first minutes with the Belgian champions, but in the meantime the 25-year-old has already trained with the group for a good week.
Mark van Bommel is of course satisfied with the arrival of Ejuke, because he adds more options and quality to the attack.
“He is individually strong,” said the Antwerp coach shortly after Ejuke’s official announcement. “He is quite fast and has a good action. He is also versatile by the way.”