Nigeria is a country blessed with football talents – millions of young footballers within and in disapora who are looking to break into the senior national team – the Super Eagles.
Complete Sports reporter, OLUYEMI OGUNSEYIN, takes a good look at ten young and hugely talented players born abroad who can still break into Super Eagles under manager, Gernot Rohr in the year 2020…
Bukayo Saka (Winger – Arsenal, England)
England-born versatile player, Bukayo Saka of Arsenal is one who is doing very well at the moment, that can come into the Super Eagles and perform very well, but the youngster hasn’t decided whether to play for Nigeria or not.
Saka has been a revelation for Arsenal this season. The 18-year-old has thrived in the Gunners’ left-back role, although, manager, Mikel Arteta sees him settling into a more advanced wide role in the future.
Saka’s excellent form has not only bebefitted Arsenal, he has also been impressive for the England under-19s with four goals in 10 games. Born in Ealing – England, Saka has Nigerian parents and is therefore eligible to play for the Super Eagles.
However, the Super Eagles chief coach, Gernot Rohr has made it very clear that Saka will need to make the first move as Nigeria will not be the one to come begging for his services.
Last year December, Saka who has three goals and nine assists in 29 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal spoke to the BBC about his international future and remained non-committal.
The youngster actually did sound open to the idea of one day playing for either the Super Eagles of Nigeria or the Three Lions of England.
Cyriel Dessers (Striker – Heracles Almelo, Netherlands)
Red-hot striker, Cyriel Dessers will certainly give the Super Eagles number nine and Lille talisman, Victor Osimhen a run for his money should the Belgian-born finally make his international debut for Nigeria.
Dessers is set to realize his dream of playing for Nigeria, having switched international allegiance and provides an intriguing option in attack for the Nigerian national team whose sole point-man is Osimhen.
Born in Belgium to a Belgian father and Nigerian mother, Dessers was included in the squad for the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against Sierra Leone that, however, suffered postponement as a result of the coronavirus pandemic breakout.
The 25-year-old attacking sensation finished joint top-scorer of the Dutch Eredivisie with 15 goals in 26 games and has set his sights on a move to a top club-side during this summer’s transfer window.
As per whoscored.com, Dessers does not only bring goals to the table but he also sets up his team-mates to score as well with the reliable and prolific goal-scorer having made five assists in the Dutch league.
His finishing is strong while his style of play shows he likes to do layoffs, has a massive counter attack threat, indirect set-piece threat, likes to play long balls and he is also a very good dribbler.
His ball-holding skills and all-round play are also some of his football qualities and after netting 18 times in only 29 matches across all competitions for Heracles this season, Dessers can excel with Nigeria.
Ovie Ejaria (Midfielder – Reading, England)
Versatile player, Ovie Ejaria is another one seriously knocking on the Super Eagles’ door even as the year 2020 which is now half-way gone progresses, and that is as a result of his impressive form at club level.
Ejaria who has UEFA Champions League holders and run-away Premier League leaders, Liverpool among the list of clubs he has played for in his young football career shone consistently for Reading in the SkyBet Championship before the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
One of Reading’s standout performers this term has been 22-year-old Ejaria with the Liverpool loanee having lit up the Championship for much of the season so far since arriving at the Madejski Stadium last summer.
With three goals and four assists in 32 Championship outings, Ejaria has really thrived under the stewardship of Mark Bowen who has deployed the youngster largely in a central midfield role that has given him licence to roam.
Ejaria will no doubt prove to be a key cog in any real push for the play-offs that Reading manage to pull off between now and the end of the season with the youngster offering both goals and creativity that will prove vital.
As per whoscored.com, he is also versatile, having played five different roles for Reading this term; MC (Midfielder Centre), AML (Attacking Midfielder Left), FWL (Forward Left), ML (Midfielder Left) and MR (Midfielder Right).
Meanwhile, reports say Ejaria who was born to Nigerian parents in London has switched his international allegiance from England to Nigeria. That is after playing for England’s youth teams in the last few years.
Eberechi Eze (Midfielder – QPR, England)
British-born Eberechi Eze appears to be bidding his time but with more pressure from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and Super Eagles boss, Gernot Rohr, the youngster can reach a decision on switching international allegiance.
NFF president, Amaju Pinnick believes the Queen Park Rangers midfielder can help improve the Super Eagles and had a meeting with Eze and his parents on the potential of the England U-21 star switching his allegiance to the West Africans.
Eze has been delivering impressive showings for QPR so far in the 2019/20 season, scoring twelve goals and providing eight assists in 37 Skybet Championship appearances which have caught the attention of the Nigerian football authority.
Pinnick is very much confident that the addition of the 21-year-old will boost the performances of the three-time African champions when they kick off preparations for their various qualifiers following the coronavirus pandemic-enforced break.
Meanwhile, Eze who has been compared to the legendary Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha has previously trained with the Super Eagles. This simply implies that the boy is good enough to do one or two jobs for the Nigerian national team.
Eze is reportedly not in a hurry to make his international commitment. The midfielder currently plays for the England youth team but he is still eligible to represent the Super Eagles as he is yet to feature for the Three Lions.
Sebastian Osigwe (Goalkeeper – SC Kriens, Switzerland)
The goalkeeping position remains a grey area for Eagles boss, Gernot Rohr who has since proceeded to hand youngster, Maduka Okoye of Fortuna Dusseldorf of Germany one national team cap.
Number one, Francis Uzoho who is on the sidelines with a long-term injury had actually provided a few solid performances but old war-horse, Daniel Akpeyi has come back to replace him.
Akpeyi, however, does not appear to be someone who can be totally relied upon and while Okoye represents a long term solution, Ikechukwu Ezenwa’s spot might be needing some re-evaluation.
SC Kriens goalie, Sebastian Osigwe would make for a decent catch to put Uzoho and co. under check. Osigwe is Swiss-born and his father, Vitalis is an ex-Nigerian youth international and Enugu Rangers player.
As a 19-year-old, the goalkeeper was called up by coach John Obuh to represent the Nigeria U-20 side at the 2013 Toulon Tournament. The 26-year-old is a prominent player at Kriens since joining in 2014.
Osigwe who says playing for Nigeria will be a dream come true for him and one of his career achievements helped Kriens rise from the Swiss fourth tier to the second division. This season, he has played 20 of his team’s 23 league games, keeping 8 clean-sheets and helping them to fourth on the log.
Chuba Akpom (Forward – PAOK FC, Greece)
The Super Eagles can count on more versatile forwards and British-born Chuba Akpom actually fits the bill as the PAOK FC of Greece attacker can play as up top, support centrally or even from the wings.
Since ending his age-long union with Arsenal in the summer of 2018, Akpom has gone on to better things in Greece, scoring crucial goals to help PAOK secure the Greek Super League title last season.
This season, he has seven goals and two assists in 23 league games and he is no stranger to the Nigerian national team set-up, having engaged in a kick-about with the side in March 2017 alongside QPR’s Eberechi Eze.
Akpom can come in to give Rohr more options and possibly provide more quality in the Super Eagles’ attack. Good enough, he says he is ready to fight for a place in the Super Eagles after pledging his allegiance to Nigeria.
The 24-year-old announced his intention to play for the Super Eagles in September 2019 after previously representing England at youth levels, finding the back of the net 21 times in 42 appearances.
German-born defender, Kevin Akpoguma of Hoffenheim is a strong centre-back who can give the likes of Super Eagles stars, Kenneth Omeruo, Semi Ajayi, William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun a good run for their money.
Super Eagles boss, Gernot Rohr and the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) have been following the progress of the 25-year-old of Nigerian descent with a view to making him pledge his international allegiance to the West African nation.
Rohr did try to land the services of Akpoguma before the Russia 2018 World Cup but his effort came to nothing as the centre-half remained committed to his dream of featuring for his country of birth, Germany.
After the Super Eagles were eliminated from the mundial in 2018, Akpoguma revealed that he did not ultimately turn down the chance of playing for Nigeria but he was only waiting for invitation to the German national team.
According to the defender, though, and that was during an interview with BBC Sports, he will consider Nigeria’s approach should he fail to receive a call-up to the German national team set-up anytime soon.
Akpoguma could eventually receive his maiden call-up to the Super Eagles, although, his form throughout this season hasn’t been spectacular. His performances for Hoffenheim last term was however a testament of his qualities.
Ademola Lookman (Forward – RB Leipzig, Germany)
Earlier in February, RB Leipzig attacker, Ademola Lookman made a decision to switch his international allegiance from England to Nigeria, and the 22-year-old has invaluable experience to shine for the Super Eagles.
Lookman who was born in England to parents of Nigerian descent having played for the European country’s youth national teams has played in both the English Premier League with Everton and Bundesliga with Leipzig.
He helped England win the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic and was also part of the England team which won the 2017 Toulon U-20 Four Nations tournament in France.
In the summer window of 2019, Lookman set a new Nigerian transfer record when he moved to Leipzig from Everton for a move worth up to £22.5m before Alex Iwobi thereafter joined the Toffees for £28m.
Lookman had actually given a huge impression at Leipzig in the second stanza of the 2017-18 Bundesliga season where he scored five goals and contributed four assists in just eleven appearances.
Despite his little travails which have seen him make only nine appearances for Leipzig in the German top-flight during the 2019/20 season with no goal or assist to his name, Lookman can still shine for Nigeria.
Kingsley Ehizibue (Defender – FC Cologne, Germany)
Towering defender, Kingsley Ehizibue who was born in Munich, Germany to Nigerian parents moved to the Netherlands at two years of age, growing up in Zwolle, has announced himself to the football world with FC Cologne.
Ehizibue plays as a right full-back for his German club and so far this season, the youngster has made 24 starts in 26 Bundesliga appearances for Cologne, scoring once and making one other assist.
The 25-year-old was handed a first call up to the Super Eagles ahead of the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against Sierra Leone which were postponed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic breakout.
Ehizibue can actually bring a lot to the Nigerian national team due to his versatility on the field of play as he is equally adept at right midfield despite being a defender.
Josh Maja (Striker – Bordeaux, France)
England-born Nigerian striker, Joshua Erowoli Maja commonly referred to as Josh Maja has shown lots of promise that he has what it takes to hit the back of the net for the Super Eagles.
Maja was hailed by Bordeaux team-mate, Enock Kwateng as the French club’s best finisher after truly showing he can be relied upon to deliver the goals with a hat-trick in a 6-0 Ligue 1 destruction of Nimes last December.
The 21-year-old earlier this season also once held the record of the most efficient Nigerian striker playing in the top five European Leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1).
Maja who was born in London to Nigerian parents spent his youth career with high-profile teams, taking in stints at Crystal Palace, Fulham, Manchester City and Sunderland.
He scored 17 goals across three seasons in England before joining Bordeaux. Maja who has the trust of Eagles boss, Gernot Rohr earned his maiden international cap when Nigeria drew 2-2 with Ukraine in a friendly last year September.
Following the conclusion of the French football season due to Coronavirus, Bordeaux announced Maja as its top-scorer for the 2019/2020 campaign after the striker scored 8 goals in 24 league appearances.