Ouma has been linked with moves to several European clubs, including Atalanta, Wolfsburd, Crystal Palace and an unnamed club in France.
On Saturday morning, French Ligue 1 side Stade Reims confirmed the signing of Kenyan defender Joseph Okumu from Belgian outfit Gent, just days after he had been confirmed as the club’s new vice captain.
The move signified another step in the right direction in the 26-year-old’s career, who is going from strength to strength ever since coming back from a year-long sabbatical in 2017 to relaunch his career in the United States, before moving to Sweden and then Belgium.
Recently, reports have emerged that his very good friend and former deskmate at Kakamega High School, Eric “Marcelo” Ouma is wanted by an unnamed Belgian club and another in France’s Ligue 1.
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But what exactly is making him attract such suitors? First, we need to know his background.
Much like Okumu, Marcelo’s rise to the point where he has been linked with moves to bigger clubs has not been easy. After playing for Green Commandos while as a student at Kakamega, he left to join Gor Mahia. At Gor, he won the KPL young player of the year, which elevated him into moving to Georgia to launch his professional career.
Five months into his spell there, he suffered from a hamstring injury, but decided to play through the injury by using pain killers to temporarily kill the pain.
He aggravated it by continuing to play until he finally decided to start his rehabilitation in September that year, the same time Okumu was taking a sabbatical from the game.
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After recovering, he earned a move to Swedish third-tier side Vasalunds, and it is while at the club that he got a chance to represent Harambee Stars at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, where he had a good individual tournament althouh Stars were eliminated,having finished third in their group.
It was inevitable that his performances would earn him a move to a bigger club, and when a chance to move to 2018 Swedish champions AIK came, he took it.
He has been at AIK since 2020, and has continued to produce consistent performances at the club.
What metrics has he recorded that are making him attract strong suitors?
Marcelo is predominantly a left back, but he can play anywhere across the flank, making him more or less of a wing back. He has played on the wing for Harambee Stars on several occasions and often starts at left back. but at AIK, he is used mostly as a left winger or left wing back.
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Just like his role model Real Madrid legend Marcelo, Ouma is a player who hugs the line, as his heat maps over his three seasons at the club suggests.
Having joined the club in 2020, it took him a while to adapt to the team, as in only four games, he started just once, in a 0-0 draw with Sirus.
From the next season onwards, he started becoming a more influential figure. In 2021, he started 21 games, scoring once and assisting five times. His form was integral as AIK finished second on 59 points, losing the title on goal difference to Malmo.
He created nine big chances that season, the joint fifth best in the league. He was also the third best dribbler in the league with a 69% success rate. Defensively, he made a combined 3.6 tackles and interceptions per 90, which was amongst the very best in Europe for left backs.
They did not do as well in 2022, as they finished fifth, but Ouma continued to show his consistency, scoring two times and registering five assists. He recorded 3.2 tackles and interceptions per 90 and was the second best dribbler with a 69 percent success rate
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2023 has not been a particularly rosy year for the side, as they are languishing perilously close to the relegation places, fortunate to be ahead of 14th place Dergedos on goal difference. However, although he has not produced goals or assists, his underlying numbers suggest he may be unlucky after all.
He has created three big chances for his teammates, is the most successful dribbler with a 77% success rate, an improvement from last season.
Ouma is certainly, a leading Swedish top league performer. So it makes sense to leave for stronger divisions.
Which clubs are interested in him?
Atalanta in Italy, Russia’s Rubin Kazan, Wolfsburg (Germany), and Premier League outfit Crystal Palace were interested in his signature in 2022. Of the three clubs, Atalanta makes the most sense, as they use wingbacks under the tutelage of Gianpaolo Gasperini.
According to a report by Swedish news outlet Expressen, two unnamed clubs have submitted their bids for Ouma with a number also reported to be interested in the marauding left-back.
“It was before the 2020 season that Erick Otieno joined AIK. Since then, he has been cemented in the club’s starting eleven and a cog in the back line.
“The left-back may now leave AIK, several foreign clubs are following him and that two have also made bids. According to the newspaper, it is still unclear how AIK evaluated the bids,” read an article from Expressen.
The Swedish club football calendar is still on but with a number of European leagues currently on a summer break a transfer is still on the cards.
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Tusker were already granted their CAF license alongside Homeboyz and Gor in mid-June.