After almost five years in the wilderness of international football, Granada midfielder, Ramon Azeez, has found his way back to the Nigeria national team.
Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, on Thursday reeled out a list of 23 players for next month’s high-profile friendly against Brazil and Azeez had his name tucked among the six midfielders invited to face the five-time world champions.
Azeez for many has paid his dues having started from scratch; playing for the Nigeria Golden Eaglets squad of 2009.
Not a bit-part player in any sense, the petite midfielder under the tutelage of then-coach John Obuh was elected captain.
He led the U-17 team that had the likes of Ogenyi Onazi and Kenneth Omeruo to a second-place finish at the World Cup on home soil in 2009, before securing a move to Spanish side Almeria in 2011.
Azeez has not played club football outside Spain; hovering around just three clubs in the LaLiga and Segunda for eight years.
With no prior club football experience in Nigeria, Azeez started out with the Almeria B team and was on the fringe for the majority of his first season before making his debut with the first team in an away fixture against FC Barcelona B for the Segunda División (5–4 win).
Later on, Azeez got promoted to the main team and he scored his first professional goal on December 21, 2013, netting the game’s only win at Real Betis.
He repeated the feat in the second meeting between the two teams, scoring in the 94th minute for a 3–2 triumph.
The performances of Azeez saw him get a call up to the Nigeria team in the build-up to the Brazil 2014 World Cup and he did make the final squad and even started for the Super Eagles in their opening game of the Mundial against Iran.
That turned to be his last game at the World Cup even though Nigeria progressed to the second round before crashing out against France.
Though Azeez did manage to play one more game at international level: a 3-2 home defeat against Congo-Brazzaville after the World Cup, it marked the beginning of a long stay away from action.
Nigeria’s back-to-back misses from the Africa Cup of Nations further limited the chances of Azeez as he was thus forced to solely face his club career.
After a combined six years at the Almeria A and B sides, Azeez jumped ship to another modest Segunda team, Lugo.
It was there he caught the fancy of Granada who recruited the Nigerian for their promotion push.
It proved to be a smart move for Azeez, as Granada put together an impressive run in the second half of the season, only losing once with the Nigerian midfielder on the pitch, to secure automatic promotion.
Back in the LaLiga where the spotlight is, Azeez is making the most of the platform as he now has two goals to his name, the most recent against Barcelona.
With an open-minded coach like Rohr, Azeez may be playing himself back to reckoning if he gets the chance and delivers against the Samba Boys.
First name: Ramon Olamilekan
Last name: Azeez
Date of birth: 12 December 1992
Country of birth: Nigeria
Place of birth: Abuja
Height: 169 cm
Weight: 67 kg