The January transfer window will open in three days and it must be a window of opportunity for some Super Eagles players desirous of being in Gernot Rohr’s 23-man squad to feature at the 2018 FIFA World Cup that kicks off in Russia on June 14.
The mix of these 23 players who will be in Russia is still fluid in Rohr’s thinking with insiders revealing the German trainer has six to eight vacant places left to fill. Some of the players who featured in the qualifiers are not sure bets for Russia 2018 on account of not getting enough minutes at their various club sides so the transfer window in January will be very important.
Here are six players who need January loan moves:
Based on goal scoring stats, this should be a no-brainer, but the former U-17 World Cup MVP is not getting the minutes at Leicester City. After his £25 million summer move from Manchester City, Iheanacho has played just 555 minutes in the EPL and in the Carabao League Cup, EFL Trophy, and with the U-21 side in PL 2. He has scored just twice.
But for Nigeria, he played six matches in 2017 – three friendlies and three 2018 World Cup qualifiers, and he scored four goals. Between now and the World Cup, the Super Eagles will play five friendly matches, which are not enough to keep Iheanacho sharp for matches against Croatia, Iceland, and Argentina.
There are teams in the EPL looking for a proven goal poacher or even teams outside of England. He must play consistently between January and May to have a place in Gernot Rohr’s 23-man squad not to talk of a starting shirt!
One of the assistant captains of the Super Eagles, Ahmed Musa’s time at Leicester has become catatonic. When he transferred from CSKA Moscow in 2016, we thought he would be Jamie Vardy’s competition but now he is not even making the bench under Claude Puel. Musa has not featured for Leicester in the EPL this season but has played 448 minutes for the U-21 side in PL 2 and in the EFL Cup, scoring three goals.
This club form has carried over to the Super Eagles where he has become a fringe player with the likes of Moses Simon and Alex Iwobi ahead of him in Rohr’s thoughts. Musa is still the only Nigerian player to have scored twice in one match at the World Cup, and at 25, still has a lot more productive years ahead. There were rumours he would make the switch to Hull City, but the manager, his former manager at CSKA, Leonid Slutsky, has been sacked.
One position the Super Eagles do not boast a sure starter is between the posts. Former No.1, Enyeama, is back training with Rohr casting furtive glances at the Eagles centurion. But, if he wishes to be in Russia, the place is definitely available, the question is if he wants to be there. If he pursues a loan move in January from Lille, it would be a pointer to his ambition of coming out of international retirement with Rohr waiting with open arms.
The central striker started the World Cup qualifiers but has since fallen on hard times at Chinese side, Tianjin Teda. With Henry Onyekuru likely to miss the World Cup because of injury, Ideye could still get on the plane but he needs to sort out his transfer quickly. A proposed move to La Liga side, Alaves, is said to have broken down but in a recent interview, the 29-year-old revealed to Score Nigeria, “What happened in China happened, I still have two years left on my contract there, but I am looking forward and hopefully I will soon get myself a good offer and focus on playing again.”
A lot of promise is going to waste here. Rohr actually rates Success very highly and any sort of good form between January and April will convince the German to include the 21-year-old because he offers a lot of options for the team’s attack. A bundle of power, pace, and trickery, Success can operate across the front lines but he needs to be match-fit and focused to get in the 23. A loan move in January to teams like Brighton; Huddersfield would see him get the minutes and sharpness to convince Rohr. Success has played just once this season – an EFL Cup encounter against Bristol City in which he scored.