Makukula chasing Portugal return
Currently thriving on Turkish soil in the latest adventure of his nomadic footballing career, Portugal forward Ariza Makukula is back among the goals and determined to force his way into national coach Carlos Queiroz’s plans for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
The son of former Zaire international Kuyangana Makukula, a skilful left-sided player who spent five years in Portuguese football, Makukula junior was born in Kinshasa, in what is now Congo DR, and gained his first taste of the European game with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal. Once there, his performances earned him national team recognition with the Selecção das Quinas’ U-21 side, with Makukula taking Portuguese nationality shortly afterwards.
By the age of 19 he was on the move, however, joining Spanish outfit Salamanca where, in the 2001/02 season, he enjoyed one of his most prolific campaigns with a return of 20 goals from 38 matches. By now a regular with Portugal’s U-21s, two seasons with French club Nantes followed before a return to Spain to don the shirt of Valladolid.
Eight goals in 18 games for the tall, physically powerful frontrunner caught the eye of Sevilla, though Makukula’s stint in Andalusia was not a happy one. Serious injury severely restricted his playing opportunities and, after a loan spell at Gimnastic Tarragona, he was on his way back to Portugal.
It would prove to be a wise decision. Ahead of the 2007/08 season Maritimo signed the striker on loan, with Makukula one of the star performers of the first half of the Portuguese top-flight campaign. Seven goals and a series of sparkling displays for the Madeira club earned him a senior national-team call-up in October 2007, with the player scoring within 20 minutes of coming on as a substitute on his debut: a 2-1 UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying win in Kazakhstan. Having won the first of four senior caps to date, the goal-getter’s rich vein of form earned a permanent switch to Lisbon giants Benfica come January 2008.
The Estadio da Luz was not a happy hunting ground for the well-travelled attacker, however, with just two goals in eight games to show from his first half season in Os Encarnados' colours. Opportunities were even more scarce come 2008/09, leading to a January 2009 loan switch to England’s Bolton Wanderers, though goals once again proved elusive despite the change of scenery.
An upturn in fortunes would finally arrive after joining Turkish outfit Kayserispor, where Makukula has powered his way to 14 goals in just 16 games. With his team flying high in fourth place in the top flight and buoyed by his scoring exploits, the sharpshooter has stated a return to Portugal duty is “a realistic dream”, despite having yet to be selected during Queiroz’s time at the helm.
And though there are plenty of players vying for contention at the sharp end of the Portuguese attack, nobody has yet made the Selecção das Quinas’ No9 shirt their own with South Africa 2010 fast approaching. An experienced goalscorer with the physical presence to trouble any defence, might make Makukula a smart bet for a place on the Portugal plane this summer.