At 35 years of age, Blaise Nkufo is entering the twilight of his professional career. The powerful striker was born in May 1975 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but his family fled to Switzerland when he was just seven and set up a new home in the Alpine nation.
Nkufo completed his 'Matura' exams, the highest secondary education qualification in Switzerland, and received citizenship at age 20. It was abundantly clear early on that he possessed a special talent with the ball at his feet, so it was no wonder when the young striker signed his first professional contract with Lausanne Sports at the beginning of the 1993/94 season.
Nkufo's first few years as a pro were punctuated by a number of transfers as he struggled to settle at any one club. After just one season in Lausanne, the forward moved to FC Echallens before taking his first steps abroad with Qatari club Al Arabi. However, the then 21-year-old never found his rhythm in Doha and soon returned to his homeland with Yverdon Sport.
Following a positive start to his Yverdon career, the 1.86m goalgetter re-signed for the club with whom he began his career, notching 18 goals in 34 matches for Lausanne over the 1997/98 season to become one of the most sought-after players in the Swiss Super League. Further spells at Grasshoppers Zurich, FC Lugano and FC Lucerne led him to Germany in 2001 with second division Mainz 05. After one and a half years at the Bruchwegstadion, he spent an unhappy one-season spell at Hannover 96 before deciding on a move to the Netherlands in 2003.
It was here that Nkufo finally found his feet and the athletic hit-man has been banging in the goals ever since. Not only has the Swiss striker become the darling of the Twente fans, he also took over as the club's all-time leading scorer as he fired the Enschede outfit to successive runners-up finishes in 2008 and 2009. Furthermore, Nkufo reached the Dutch Cup final last year, though he was unable to add to his 1998 Cup triumph with Lausanne. Nkufo recently announced his plans to see out his career in the USA after the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and signed a contract with Major League Soccer club Seattle Sounders in March.
The prolific marksman made his debut for the Swiss national team in September 2000, though he is yet to appear at a major tournament. Indeed, Nkufo only returned to the international fold in 2007 after a five-year absence resulting from a rift with then manager Jakob Kuhn.
UEFA EURO 2008 on home turf last year should have been the highlight of Nkufo's international career to date, but the father of two was forced to watch the continental showdown from home due to injury. Things are looking far brighter ahead of South Africa 2010, though, with Nkufo in the form of his life and coach Ottmar Hitzfeld a keen admirer of his attacking abilities.
The striker appeared in all ten of Switzerland's qualification matches, contributing five goals along the way, making him the obvious choice to partner Alexander Frei in attack in South Africa.