It is interesting how Ola Aina’s Super Eagles career has eclipsed that of Tyrone Ebuehi.
A one time hot fan-favorite, Super Eagles supporters now scarcely bat an eyelid whenever Ebuehi is either invited and then participate on a bit-part basis or is even overlooked altogether.
I deliberately said “hot fan-favorite” in my previous paragraph. Ebuehi is still loved by and large by a broad spectrum of Super Eagles supporters. But it fair to say that the love for hIm has somewhat cooled down recently.
When in 2018 Ebuehi was selected ahead of Aina as one of the wingbacks for the Super Eagles’ Russia World Cup expedition, most believed that choice was merited.
Ebuehi was piping hot!
His games oozed of class as he glided across the pitch with grace and grandeur. He was going to cement a place for himself in either side of the fullback in time to come.
However, suffering a major injury after the world cup and some minor yet telling injuries shortly afterwards meant he came back with less spice to his game. Though his injury days now seem to be behind him, Ebuehi now struggles to nail down a place for himself in the Super Eagles.
He was overlooked in the latest squad to face CAR with the coach going for a rookie international fullback based in Scotland (despite Ebuehi playing regular football in the Italia Serie A).
Aina on his part has no such problems. The Torino man is now third choice in left fullback position of the Super Eagles and first/second choice in the right fullback.
If Fit Aina is expected to be invited to the Super Eagles (a fit Ebuehi at times have had to make do in the Super Eagles standby squad).
Aina is solid and stern as a full back. There is an air of class in his overlaps and his deliveries can be so delicious with his exquisite pass to Ighalo against Burundi in the 2019 Afcon coming to mind.
Aina is now undoubtedly a mainstay of the Super Eagles. He also showed admirable character by not throwing sour grapes after being dropped for Nigeria’s 2018 world cup squad.
In fact, he carried himself with much dignity whenever dawning Super Eagles colours. Even after being dropped for Collins in the Afcon semi finals against Algeria, Aina remained humble.
He was solid for Fulham in the English Premier League last season and he continues to post stellar performances for Torino this season.
Ideally, he should be an automatic starter in the Super Eagles. But stiff competition from the likes of Akpoguma, Shehu, Collins, Zaidu and at times Ebuehi has meant a starting position is never really guaranteed.
Brian Idowu appears to no longer be in the picture while Semi Ajayi rarely gets deployed as a full back for club and country (despite playing that position in the past).
Competition places also come from Awaziem (on the right) and now Calvin Bassey (on the left).
In truth, Aina is a quality addition to this Super Eagles squad. When playing African oppositions like Cameroon, he could get harried and bullied. But the offensive aspect of his is an asset while his overall defensive skills are adequate enough.
His game has also shown so much improvements since moving to Italy. He is cool, calculative and calm in delicate areas while he picks his time well to aattack with gusto.
Aina is also comfortable playing either fullback positions.
Players with Aina’s class, quality and propensity to improve potentials are pivotal to Nigeria’s quest of ruling Africa once more.