Reiterating his earlier stance on inviting only players who are playing in first division leagues in various countries and Nigeria, Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh, via a video on his personal website, said he would be selecting first division players because of high standard of games they are used to.
“We feel the best has to play for us and the best play in the best divisions,” Oliseh said in the video.
“Of course they might be exceptions but the basis of our decision is that the best players in the top division are used to a different tempo and competition standard and for that reason, we need the best who are used to this tempo to serve and play for Nigeria. This involves outfield players who are involved with the tempo of the game and not the goalkeeper. Senior players who have served Nigeria and won titles for us and are tied up in a second decision team will also be selected,” he sad.
Oliseh made it pointedly clear that unfit and struggling players will not wear the colours of Nigeria with him as the manager. While not a few Nigerians saw the resolve as long overdue, a section expressed reservation on the pronouncement, saying that Oliseh’s decision will rob the country of quality players.
Babatunde Michael, for example, is one player Oliseh has to look at seriously. The Volyn Lutsk of Ukrain player posted very impressive performance in the past league season, severally getting the coach’s commendations.
Even though he quit the club last week due to salaries owed him, which runs up to seven months, the midfielder proved that he will plug the void in Eagles central defence with his sterling performances, which was, only last week, attested to by his coach at Lutsk.
“Michael is a very important player to us. He was instrumental to our quarter final placing in the domestic cup. Our club is passing through a phase and we had actually wanted him to remain with us and help out, but there is a limit to what we can do,” Vitaliy Kvartsyanyi, the coach, said while reacting to the player’s departure.
Another player, Ramon Azeez, is a consistent performer for UD Almeria of Spain even though the club was eventually relegated from Spain’s top flight. During last season, the midfielder saw good action in the La Liga. As a central midfielder, Azeez combined very well with captain, Miguel Ángel García Pérez-Roldá (called Corona), to form a formidable centre for Almeria in the matches he played.
In the Super Eagles, John Obi Mikel has been a huge suspect in his hitherto creative responsibility and it is obvious that Oliseh will need a blend of versatility and youthfulness to reposition the Eagles centre. Also at 22, Azeez presents a good choice for the coach. The player might have been relegated with Almeria, but that has not robbed him his deft touches in the midfield.
Former Inter Milan and Eagle’s fringe midfielder, Joel Obi, is one player that will readily grab any opportunity to return to the Super Eagles. Obi, who just joined Torino, is a product of Inter’s youth team and developed from the ranks. His career has been plagued with injuries, which cost him Eagles and Inter Milan places. Having sought a fresh challenge, Oliseh should monitor the 24-year-old.
Also, Oliseh must rely on the versatility of Spartak Moscow forward, Ahmed Musa, to achieve success with Eagles. This is one player that has demonstrated that he is capable of even leading the Super Eagles as skipper. That he is a regular with CSKA Moscow makes him a sure bet for Oliseh.
According to Henry Nwosu, “Musa is one player that has blossomed in Eagles. He has developed so much and will help current Super Eagles manager to qualify Nigeria for the nation’s cup. Oliseh should build his attack around him.”
Gbolahan Salami is another player that has improved remarkably since he debuted for the national team over three years ago. His pace and work rate is handful to defenders. Salami scored the first of Eagles’ two goals in the AFCON qualifier against Chad in Kaduna. But for his temperament, Salami can go for another Rashidi Yekini with his precision in front of goals.
Nwosu said of him: “He is very good and should be retained by Oliseh. I think he reminds me of Amokachi. With players like that and good atmosphere, Oliseh will succeed.”
In the match against Chad, unknown defender, Kingsley Madu, acquainted himself well to the demand of international football in what was his debut game for the three-time African Champions. The Slovak based left back joined the attack at will and also performed his defensive duties with panache. This player, no doubt, will help Oliseh in solving the perennial defensive problems of the team.
According to pundits at the pay-station, Super Sports, Madu impressed so much that he was given 8/10 in the match. “Madu is really what Nigeria needs to help solve its defensive challenges. He played very well and composed himself, even as a debutant.”
Also, Oliseh must look at one William Troost Ekong. Against Chad, the 21-year-old former Dutch youth international had a senior Nigeria national debut to remember. Dominant in the air, solid in tackle, neat in possession and won all of his duels, little wonder the Dordrecht of Holland defender broke the over three years central defence partnership of Kenneth Omeruo and Godfrey Obaboana in the heart of Eagles defence. His greatest asset is his young age. He presents a huge option for Oliseh in the heart of Eagles defence.
Coming to the players in the age group competitions, it is imperative that Oliseh seriously consider players like Kelechi Iheanacho, Chidiebere Nwakali and Taiwo Awoniyi. Keshi obviously erred in not taking advantage of these players, which presented him the option of youthfulness and skill.
Awoniyi may not have secured a contract in Europe, but the academy player has been reportedly courted by top clubs like Monaco, FC Porto and Manchester United. The player will undoubtedly give additional bite to Eagles frontline.
It is now all up to Oliseh to ensure he monitors these players and others to ensure he follows their successes.