Fit-again Reuben Gabriel ready to succeed with Boavista

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport, Lagos
Reuben Gabriel
Reuben Gabriel

Nigeria international Reuben Gabriel is hoping to rediscover the form that once drew comparisons with former Arsenal player Patrick Vieira.

Gabriel wants to re-establish himself as a top European player with new club Boavista in a bid to take a leading role for club and country.

For the past year the all-action midfielder has been hampered by a lingering groin injury which also forced him out of the Nigerian squad for the 2013 Fifa Confederation cup in Brazil.

He eventually returned to full fitness to participate in the pre-World Cup friendly internationals and also made a late substitute appearance for Nigeria against France at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Gabriel, who has been omitted from the latest Super Eagles squad to afford him time to sort out his club career, is happy that his injury days are now behind him after making his debut for Portuguese side Boavista last weekend.

"The groin injury was difficult, but as a professional you must continue fighting to regain fitness quickly. It now seems that rushing to return to fitness only made things worse for me but I never gave up till I recovered because I'm a born fighter," Gabriel told BBC Sport.

"I endured a lot of challenges but my family and my agent stood by me and supported me all the way to ensure I fully recover from my injury problems and continue to enjoy my football.

"I'm now fully recovered and ready to show fans at club and international level what I can do."

The 24-year-old was a member of the Super Eagles squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations in February 2013 but he was prevented from playing after being struck down by chicken pox.

However, two months after the team's success in South Africa, Gabriel joined Scottish Premier League side Kilmarnock Football Club.

After suffering a hamstring injury and struggling to settle down in the Scottish top flight, he terminated his contract with Kilmarnock at the start of 2014 following a series of disputes with the club.

He then decided to join Belgian Jupiler League side Waasland-Beveren despite the prospect of an offer from English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. He had been training with Spurs and had begun discussions to join them and then be loaned immediately.

A short stint at Waasland-Beveren was rewarded with a place in his country's squad for the World Cup in Brazil.

Gabriel, who is greatly admired by Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi, has quietly gone off the international radar but is now convinced that his fitness is much improved.

"I'm in great shape now. Groin injuries can be very troublesome and frustrating but I visited one of the best groin specialists in the UK and everything is now fine. I thank God for that.

"I'm enjoying my football here in Boavista. We have a very good team and our coach is great and encourages us all the time. I'm ready to fight with everything for my club and hope to establish myself as a top player in Europe."

Gabriel played his first game for Nigeria in 2010 and scored his first goal for the Super Eagles two years later in Blantyre which secured a 1-1 draw against Malawi in a 2014 World Cup qualifier.

He was named man of the match against Rwanda in Nigeria's qualifying campaign as the West Africans secured a second consecutive appearance on football's greatest footballing stage.