Several reputable football personalities including England coach Gareth Southgate went on record recently to say that the greatest attribute of young Three Lions invitee is the versatility he showed for Arsenal last season. For me, coach they are all bang on the money by highlighting ‘versatility’ as the USP (unique selling point) of young vivacious winger Bukayo Saka as the youngster is set to embark on a national team career that will undoubtedly see him being booed anytime England face Nigeria. In 2018, Tottenham Hotspur playmaker Dele Alli could not escape the jeers and booes from Super Eagles fans who made their impressions of him known every time he touched the ball in their area. After apparently being encouraged by John Fashanu in 2015 to bolt his international football cart to the Nigerian stallion, Alli elected to kit for England. He has gone on to make an impressive 35 caps since then. Although Nigerian fans have refused to either overcome or forgive Alli’s snub (or treachery as some would want to make themselves believe), the 24 year old has enjoyed a decent England career having been to Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018. And it is to such a footstep that Saka will be hoping to not only emulate but also surpass. And he has all the attributes to do just that due to his dynamism, creativity, craft and most of all versatility. There was a time last season – around June time – when in Arsenal’s three Premier League games, Saka played on the left of a back four, the right of a front three and, and the against Brighton, on the left of a midfield three. That is amazing! To be flexible, pliable and moldable into different roles within a short space of time and still churn out pristine performances is the reason perhaps why Saka’s choice is Nigeria’s loss and England’s gain.
But Nigeria did not lose for losing Saka (in my humble opinion); Nigeria lost for not paying adequate attention to youth football for indigenous players. I am in no doubt; Nigeria still produces players like Saka in abundance. Unfortunately, just like ripe fruits that fall off a tree and go rotten on the ground without being picked, our young indigenous players are being failed by a system that seemed designed only to help waste away their talents and potentials. The system in England and Arsenal produced Saka and it only seems fitting (and fair, I might add) that they benefit from the fruits of their investment and labour.
As for Saka, if he continues to invest in himself, there is no reason why he cannot go on to be a seasoned England International like Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford, Danny Welbeck and Emil Heskey. Even none of those players exhibited the sort of versatility that Saka exudes. And as for Nigeria supporters, rather than boo or berate Saka, I think they should vent their anger on football administrators in the country who have created the sort of environment that makes it inimical for prospects like Saka to be discovered and to thrive. Copyright Notice © : unauthorised use of this material is strictly prohibited