Everton sensation Ademola Lookman must choose Nigeria over England
Everton raised a few eyebrows when they splashed out around £11 million to sign Ademola Lookman from League One Charlton Athletic but the youngster has already made a big impression.
Lookman enjoyed a dream debut on Jan. 15, coming on as a substitute in Everton's win over Manchester City and netting the final goal in a rousing 4-0 victory for Ronald Koeman's men.
It's a whirlwind spell for the youngster, who has made the step up from the third tier of English football to find himself potentially at the centre of an international tug-of-war.
The Wandsworth-born 19-year-old, who has represented England Under-20s, is eligible to play for Nigeria by virtue of his parents. And Nigeria Football Federation technical director Bitrus Bewarang even gave weight to the idea of looking at Lookman by claiming he'd be keen on speaking to the Everton starlet about representing Nigeria.
Here are three reasons why the Super Eagles, in their own and in the player's interest, should try to give him the option of representing Nigeria rather than England.
Lookman would add to the growing number of what is gradually becoming the core group of Nigeria international players under 25.
This stretches all the way from the goalkeeping position with Dele Alampasu (20) through the defence with the likes of Kenneth Omeruo (23), William Troost-Ekong (23), Musa Mohammed (20), Shehu Abdullahi (20), Kingsley Madu (20) and midfielders Ogenyi Onazi (24), Azubuike Okechukwu (19), Oghenekaro Etebo (21), Wilfred Ndidi (20) through to forwards like Ahmed Musa (24), Moses Simon (21), Isaac Success (21), Alex Iwobi (20) and Kelechi Iheanacho (20). This group of players have the talent and potential to be world beaters at any level in the future and Lookman would be an integral part of growing with such a quality group.
While the talent of players raised in Nigeria is never in doubt, it is unfortunately not matched by good foundations at an early age. There are few, if any, recognised formal structures for them to learn the basics of their craft under experienced guidance.
A direct consequence is that when they make the move to Europe, they need time to unlearn many of the bad habits they picked up playing street football in order to and learn new things, by which time that crucial commodity, time, is swiftly flying by.
With Lookman, the foundation is already there and he can assimilate quickly and seamlessly into the squad, which would see him join teammates who are already playing at similar if not higher levels.
Being a young player for England is to be part of a vicious cycle. Someone shows promise, is hailed, gets a call-up, plays a handful of games and then is forgotten.
It may be the result of a failure to fulfill their talent or better players taking their place but plenty of promising players have seen their England careers stall or finish completely. Wilfried Zaha won two caps with Roy Hodgson but now represents Ivory Coast while the likes of Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley have seen their international careers stall with the Three Lions.
Lookman has a better chance of a long and sustained international career with Nigeria than with England. And it will be in both parties' interests for the player to play for Nigeria with the opportunity of participating at major tournaments like the Olympic Games and African Nations Cup.
And he's more likely to win an international medal with Nigeria than with England ...
Colin Udoh is a Nigeria football correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.