Nigeria risks losing Crystal Palace star Eberechi Eze to England unless it urgently does something dramatic.
Eze has been courted by both Nigeria and England, but it now appears that the Three Lions have the advantage over the Super Eagles.
Although born and raised in England, Eze is eligible to play for Nigeria through his parents.
The former Arsenal trainee has played for England’s youth teams, but he was willing to switch allegiances to the Super Eagles in 2022, ultimately failing to do so.
Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick courted Eze in 2017 and even had Super Eagles invite the midfielder ahead of a friendly against Burkina Faso. But that didn’t work out, as the friendly match was later cancelled.
Just before the 2022 World Cup play-offs in Qatar against Ghana, Pinnick, now a member of the FIFA Council, also tried to lure Eze to the Super Eagles and even met the Crystal Palace star at his London home.
Unlike his Palace teammate, Michael Olise, who immediately backed out of the talks, Eze assured Pinnick during the meeting that he would only consider playing for the Super Eagles if they qualified for the World Cup.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the World Cup and talks to let Eze play for Nigeria stalled as the NFF fell into a leadership crisis following the disastrous qualifier. Pinnick was eventually replaced by Ibrahim Gusau, as NFF chairman.
Yesterday, the Daily Mail of London reported that England Manager, Gareth Southgate, has named Eze as one of the players he is considering for the Three Lions’ Euro 2024 qualifiers, alongside Levi Colwill, Morgan Gibbs-White and Jacob Ramsey.
24-year-old Eze has played a key role in Palace’s excellent run under Roy Hodgson, in which the club met the threat of relegation by scoring six goals in seven games.
According to the reports, the English Football Association already has extensive scouting reports on the star and he was poised to give Eze his first senior call-up in 2021, but a serious Achilles injury dashed his hopes of being selected.
Eze, recovered from the injury, was reportedly selected in Southgate’s preliminary 55-man squad for last year’s World Cup in Qatar, but failed to make the final.
And Southgate has been briefed on his recent form, though it remains to be seen whether next month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia arrive too early.
There is fierce competition in attacking areas, with Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and James Maddison all vying for places.
Nevertheless, Eze is earmarked for an international breakthrough, provided he continues to progress.
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