Moses: From Teenage Refugee, Loan Outcast To Chelsea Mainstay
The transition of Victor Moses from marauding forward to defensive-minded wing-back has been something of a miracle move by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.
The Super Eagles forward has been wandering in the wilderness for the four years of his Stamford Bridge contract. Not even 10 goals in his debut season following a £9 million move from Wigan; signed by short-term manager Roberto Di Matteo, was deemed good enough and loan spells at Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham have come in the previous three seasons.
Moses’s resilience, however, should shock no-one. He coped with trauma at 12-years-old that no child should have to endure. His father Austin, a Christian pastor, and mother Josephine, who worked with him were murdered in their home back in Nigeria when religious tensions between Muslims and Christians erupted into violence in 2002. Moses, who was also at risk, escaped to England and was taken in by a foster family in South London.
At 25-years-old, many players would have decided it was probably time to move on, but Conte arrived and Moses got his head down once again and the transformation has been spectacular. Even the Italian has been taken aback.
“I think Moses is a great surprise in this aspect because we know him as a winger, but I think he’s playing in a fantastic way,’ Conte said after he shined once again in their victory against Southampton, overshadowed only by the resurgence of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, who both scored.
“I think that this role is very important in this system,’ Conte added. ‘You must have good stamina and quality to play as a wing-back. I ask my wing-backs to do offensive and defensive duties.”
It was why he was spotted by Crystal Palace playing football in Norbury Park. They got him a place at the prestigious Whitgift school where he proved a prolific striker. There was no tracking back to pick up the opposition winger then.
He captained their Under 14s to the FA Youth Cup in 2005 and hit all five in the final past a Grimsby side all in red. The Grimsby Evening Telegraph wrote a story on the match with the headline: ‘Holy Moses – wonder player parts red sea.’
Moses made his Championship debut for Palace at 16, but they sold him to Wigan two-and-a-half years later after falling into administration. Chelsea bought him a few years after that when they wanted the best young attacking midfielders. Hazard, the same age, and Oscar, a year younger, signed with him that summer.
Moses has always scored wherever he has been but not as prolifically as in his youth. Yet Conte has spotted attributes in him that he desires for those crucial wing-back positions in his unorthodox 3-4-3 formation.
Moses is rapid, has seemingly endless reserves of stamina and is actually not bad at defending despite his relative inexperience. His ability to turn defending into a blistering attack by dribbling with the ball was evident several times against Southampton.
“I have not played there before,’ Moses said on Sunday night. ‘I have just got to listen to what the manager asks me to do in that position, and the way he wants me to do it. Every game we play I just want to keep on improving. The more games you play, the more experience you get in that position. I’m really relishing it at the moment and enjoying it.
“We want to make sure we don’t get caught sleeping in a game. Every day in training the manager is on top of us to make sure we are solid at the back. It’s looking good for us at the moment, but we have to keep our feet firmly on the floor.”