Victor Moses is the new wonder of Wigan
The immediate acceleration, the ability to beat a defender on either side, the shots that were fizzed in when the winger materialised rather nearer to the penalty spot than the touchline: all were familiar sights at the DW Stadium.
It was only the identity that had changed. The prime exponent of thrilling dribbling at Wigan Athletic had been Charles N'Zogbia, but no sooner had the Frenchman completed his £9.5 million (Dh56.5m) move to Aston Villa than a kindred spirit, left-footed and with a low centre of gravity, took his place as tormentor in chief of visiting defenders.
Perhaps. Victor Moses has many of the same gifts as the departed N'Zogbia. Perhaps the baton was symbolically passed when the older player, in his final game for Wigan, made way for Moses.
The way Roberto Martinez, his manager, discusses his evolution as a footballer suggests he is grooming the 20 year old to be the next N'Zogbia.
"Victor can play in three or four systems with great clarity," said the Spaniard, under whose guidance N'Zogbia flourished on either flank or behind the main striker.
"That is a tactical awareness that he's developed. That's down to his hard work and discipline. Wingers don't get that normally, and that's what pleases me.
"If you talk about Victor, people will tell you how well he gets away from people, and the quality he has got in one-on-one situations, but he's also a real team player with a real team ethic and that's quite unique in such a young boy."
A ready-made replacement he may be but, as Martinez argued, Moses was already a factor as Wigan avoided relegation last season.
"He worked extremely hard when he came here 18 months ago. I would say that he was himself in the last 10 games of the last campaign," the manager said.
In the penultimate match, with Wigan trailing to West Ham United 2-0, Moses was introduced in a double half-time switch. They won 3-2. They went on to beat Stoke City the following week and survived in the Premier League.
In the current campaign, minus N'Zogbia, Moses has started in the side. He was the outstanding individual in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Norwich City. An emerging force has an old-fashioned attitude, according to his manager.
"He loves playing football," Martinez said. "That's refreshing nowadays, to have a player who loves playing football. I know it sounds strange, but there are not many. He wants to be the best that he can be, and he's a real joy."
Martinez was disappointed that the 20 year old was not chosen by Fabio Capello for England's friendly against Holland last week although, as the game was called off because of the London riots, his selection would not have ended a tug of war for his services.
While an England Under 21 international, Moses has also been selected in senior Nigeria squads without taking the field as Fifa did not confirm his application to change nationalities in time. The split loyalties are entirely understandable after a traumatic upbringing.
Moses was born in Kaduna, Nigeria, the son of a Christian minister and orphaned at 11 when his parents were killed during religious riots. The young Moses, who had been playing football with a string ball when he was told, was hidden at a friend's house.
"It was a week after they were killed I came to England," he said two years ago.
"They got me out as quickly as they could for my safety."
He arrived in Croydon, South London, as an asylum seeker. His talents meant he soon came to the attention of Crystal Palace, and he first came to prominence by scoring 50 goals for the club's Under 14 team. Palace were instrumental, too, in getting him a place at the fee-paying Whitgift School in South Croydon, with a trust funding his education. Whitgift had the former Arsenal and Chelsea defender Colin Pates and ex-Palace manager Steve Kember among its staff.
Moses graduated to Selhurst Park, making his debut for Palace at 16. Two seasons ago, he flourished as the club's finances deteriorated. With Palace heading for administration, his departure became inevitable. Real Madrid were the most eye-catching of his reported admirers, along with Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool.
The three firm bids, however, came from West Bromwich Albion and Nottingham Forest, then competing at the top of the Championship, and Wigan. Moses opted for the last and immediate elevation to the Premier League. It is now, however, that he is starting to make his mark there.
Published: August 17, 2011 04:00 AM