Nigeria risks losing Eze to England as Southgate prepares for Euro 2024 qualifiers
Nigeria stands the risk of losing Crystal Palace star, Eberechi Eze, to England, unless it does something dramatic urgently.
Eze has been courted by both Nigeria and England, but it now seems that the Three Lions have the advantage over the Super Eagles.
Although he was 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 change allegiance to the Super Eagles in 2022, which did not work out eventually.
Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick, courted Eze in 2017 and even had Super Eagles invite the midfielder ahead of a friendly game against Burkina Faso. But that did not work as the friendly game was later canceled.
Just before the Qatar 2022 World Cup playoff against Ghana, Pinnick, now a FIFA Council member, also tried to lure Eze to the Super Eagles and even met with the Crystal Palace star at his home in London.
Unlike his Palace teammate, Michael Olise, who pulled out of talks straight away, 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 about getting Eze to play for Nigeria stalled as the NFF went into a leadership crisis after the disastrous qualifier. Pinnick was eventually replaced by Ibrahim Gusau, as NFF president.
Yesterday, Daily Mail of London reported that England Manager, Gareth Southgate, has listed 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.
Eze, 24, has played a lead role in Palace’s excellent run under Roy Hodgson that has seen the club fight off the threat of relegation, scoring six goals in seven matches.
The reports says the England FA already have extensive scouting reports on the star and were ready to hand Eze his first senior call-up in 2021, but a serious Achilles injury dashed his hopes of being selected.
Having recovered from the injury, it is understood Eze was selected in Southgate’s provisional 55-man squad for last year’s World Cup in Qatar, but didn’t make the final cut.
And Southgate has been alerted to his recent form, although it remains to be seen whether next month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia arrive too early.
There is stiff 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 being earmarked for an international breakthrough provided he continues progressing.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.