12 Nigerians in the UEFA Champions League

UEFA logo [UEFA.com]
UEFA logo [UEFA.com]

There are 12 Nigerian players in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League group stage – the most lucrative and competitive football tournament [arguably] in the world.

The money-spinning group stage kicks off on Tuesday with 12 [eligible] players – who have played and can still be capped by the Super Eagles.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), under Amaju Pinnick, has not hidden its desire to cap any Nigerian, wherever that player has been born.

Chelsea – Tammy Abraham [21], Fikayo Tomori [21]

These two players have been on the radar of the NFF for some time and Abraham has even been approached already.

In an interview with Calvin Onwuka of ACL Sports in August, Abraham stated he would be coming to a decision very soon on the country, he will represent.

But with his explosive beginning to the 2019/20 EPL season with Chelsea – seven goals in four appearances; England national team handler, Gareth Southgate will be lookingto cap him in their next official games to finally take him off Nigeria’s list.

For Tomori, who also holds Canadian citizenship, the path to the England national team seems a bit harder and turning out for Nigeria could help him achieve what he is already doing at club level at an international stage. Tomori has been the player that has benefitted much from David Luiz’s departure to Arsenal as he has now played two full matches and scored a wonder goal.

Read also: EPL Round-Up: Tammy Abraham nets hat trick as Chelsea tear Wolves apart

Club Brugge – David Okereke [22], Emmanuel Dennis [21]

Dennis was capped in the match against Ukraine and showed flashes of why he was called up while Okereke is a member of the U-23 team. Okereke has four goals from six league games while Dennis has two from five.

GNK Dinamo Zagreb – Iyayi Atiemwen [23]

The right-winger is at his sixth club since jetting out to Europe from Bendel Insurance in 2015. Atiemwen has scored three league goals in five appearances and has no goals in two appearances in the Champions League qualifying stage.

Locomotiv Moscow – Bryan Idowu [27]

The World Cup defender has made three league appearances for his side and will hope to add to the three appearances he made in last season’s Champions League.

Genk – Stephen Odey [21], Paul Onuachu [25]

Odey has played for the Super Eagles but is in the U-23 team while Onuachu was a member of the bronze-winning Super Eagles team to the last Nations Cup.

Odey has appeared for his new side in two league games and is yet to break his duck while Onuachu, also newly arrived has one goal in two league appearances.

Slavia Prague – Peter Olayinka [23]

The much-travelled Olayinka has played for nine clubs since he turned out for 36 Lions in Lagos in 2012.

Now at Slavia, Olayinka has not been capped by Nigeria at any level has scored two goals in six league outings. He also appeared twice in the qualifying stageswithout getting a goal.

Benfica – Tyronne Ebuehi [23]

Ebuehi is making a comeback from another injury spell but was registered by Benfica for the Champions League as he hopes to snag minutes.

He has not appeared for his club in the league this season and is yet to even make the bench. Ebuehi was profiled by the Dutch FA before the NFF swayed him and has now been capped seven times.

RB Leipzig – Ademola Lookman [21]

This is another player that the NFF has had discussions with and another that the English FA don’t want to lose to Nigeria.

A member of the gold-winning England U-21 squad to the 2017 FIFA World Cup, Lookman has made a permanent move to join RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, a decision which could sway him in Nigeria’s direction.

LOSC Lille – Victor Osimhen [21]

Osimhen is taking Ligue 1 by storm, having scored five goals in four league appearances and looking the part to become the Super Eagles No.1 striker after the retirement of Odion Ighalo.

He scored his first goal for the national team against Ukraine and will be hoping to take that good form into the Champions League – his first participation in the elite tournament.

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