ENGLAND – On Thursday, England manager Gareth Southgate, finally included Bukayo Saka in his squad, ahead of their upcoming games against Wales, Belgium and Denmark.
The decision somewhat represents a blow for the Super Eagles, as the Nigeria Football Federation had an eye on the Arsenal starlet.
However, on the other hand, it does feel as if Southgate bowed to the pressure to pick Saka. He always had the chance but opted to select other players. Until suspensions and injuries forced his hand.
Analysts and football commentators have wondered if Saka will end up like Fikayo Tomori, Jordon Ibe, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Tammy Abraham and others.
Solace Chukwu, the African Players’ Editor with Goal, believes nothing much has changed for the football star.
“He wasn’t called up for the previous set of matches on the premise that (according to Gareth Southgate) he was considered a forward exclusively.
“Nothing much has changed since in terms of his role tactically, so that makes his call-up this time around an odd one,” Chukwu said.
Wale Adigun, who heads the Sports Department at Top Radio, Lagos, adds: “This English team is not a settled one yet, which gives Saka a chance to make an impression over the next three internationals.
“I think Saka will be a long term project for Southgate.”
Saka has the versatility and tactical nous to play across the front three. The 19-year-old played for a large portion of the 2019/2020 as a left-back and sometimes did a job in central midfield.
It is a skillset Nigeria would have loved to have in Gernot Rohr’s team.
“One thing with versatile players is, they will always be an asset to any team so I’ll say Nigeria’s loss to be honest.
“Very big loss for us and England’s gain but, we move!” Sola Oyeniyi, a contributor at ACL Sports, says.
Chukwu adds: “Long-term, it’s a loss for Nigeria, definitely.
“However, short-term, I don’t consider it a huge blow.
“While he would certainly have improved the Super Eagles quality-wise, he remains a little underdeveloped physically (at the moment) for the rigours of African football.
“There is also the fact that Nigeria has a number of solid options in most of the positions he has excelled.
“So you expect it’ll be no great loss for either side; however, if Saka goes on to become the star his potential has suggested, there will be more than a little hand-wringing on the part of the Nigeria Football Federation, inevitably.”
But Adigun feels there is an unnecessary controversy over Saka’s decision to represent the Three Lions.
“I think it’s a good thing for Saka, he has never been vocal about playing for Nigeria, despite the attempts of Amaju Pinnick to convince him to play for the Super Eagles.
“England has obviously invested in the player from the grassroots level, it’s just normal that England benefits from his talent,” Adigun states matter-of-factly.