May 19, 2021

Nigeria want Eze…but where does he fit in?

Gernot Rohr values the Crystal Palace player and wants him representing the Super Eagles…convincing the talented playmaker would be a steal

Eberechi Eze opting to represent Nigeria rather than England would be a coup in every sense of the word.

Given how Anglo-Nigerians are inclined to play for the Three Lions instead of the Super Eagles, and for good reason in fairness, getting one of the brightest Premier League youngsters to choose the three-time African champions would cause untold excitement in the Nigeria fanbase.

Nothing is set in stone, of course, with Gernot Rohr recently revealing the Crystal Palace midfielder remains undecided.

“This is a wonderful player, Eberechi Eze is one of the best offensive midfielders I’ve ever seen in England and I would like to have him with us, but you know that he can also play for England and already played for one team in England,” Rohr said to Elegbete TV Sports.

“I sent him a message, and, in this message, I showed the interest Nigeria has to get him in this team, so he replied, and he said he has to think about it, so it is not the moment to speak too much about it.

“There is a process to do, at first, the boy must accept, and the decision must come from him, from his parents, from his own. We cannot tell him he must come; he must come himself and if he wants to come, he has to write a letter.”

Having convinced Kevin Akpoguma recently, as well as Ola Aina, Tyronne Ebuehi and previously Alex Iwobi to play for Nigeria, Eze’s assent would delight Nigerians. However, having the Palace man around may be to the Everton midfielder’s detriment.

Owing to Iwobi’s utilisation as a wide playmaker on the left, predisposed to making lateral runs infield to allow for his left-back’s overlapping runs, Rohr would have a tough decision to make concerning who starts and sits games out.

While Eze prefers a number 10 role — as does Iwobi — the West African nation’s current system has no room for a traditional playmaker. The German has tended to pair Kelechi Iheanacho with Victor Osimhen recently and, while the Leicester City man sometimes moonlights as a playmaker, the recent switch resembles a 4-4-2 as opposed to a 4-2-3-1.

Even though observers may reckon both can be thrown into the same XI, Samuel Chukwueze’s place in the team becomes uncertain and neither Iwobi nor Eze would be beneficiaries of playing on the right flank anyway.

As Rohr revealed, it certainly isn’t a straightforward decision for the former Queens Park Rangers and explained part of the process.

“He has to write a letter to Fifa that he wants to switch and to play for Nigeria, this would be wonderful, but I know that we cannot force his decision and he can only take it himself,” the German manager continued. “What we do is to explain to him how we are working, to explain to him what we are doing, and what our objectives are – what we did with players like Alex Iwobi, like Akpoguma, we did with Ola Aina and Tyronne Ebuehi.

“We have already some players like that, if we can have Eze it would be wonderful but it’s not easy.”

Without a doubt, the 22-year-old’s decision would either prompt a bit of schadenfreude from supporters of the football-loving nation or disappoint fans whose initial disappointment at losing Bukayo Saka to the Three Lions last year was evident.

The attacking midfielder’s choice could mean the Super Eagles enter next year’s Africa Cup of Nations with arguably the most feared attacking line-up on paper, but the precedent with Rohr means fans probably remain cautious about their prospects in Cameroon.

The form of many of the nation’s frontmen is already gratifying enough for Nigerians but adding someone of Eze’s talent certainly has to excite even the gloomiest citizen of the West African nation.

And as for the potential Iwobi-Eze quandary…we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.