Birthright, a coming together of two words to create one that leads to a division of opinions and friendships.
Throw families into the mix and you wouldn’t be wrong, after all, Esau sold his birthright for Pottage. I am still curious as to the sumptuousness of the meal or the level of hunger to trigger that cause of action. It is was the beginning of the birthright debate.
The definition of birthright is “heritage”, the one Jose Mourinho faffed about in an iconic presser. Football heritage. It is this heritage/birthright that determines the level of expectation of a nation or a club going to any tournament.
Think Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Italy at the World Cup, nothing less than the trophy suffices. Failure to qualify is akin to disaster.
In Africa, Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria are the birthright custodians. Every AFCON is a must-win. Nigeria, especially have a population of 200-million coaches.
Everyone a tactician seeking the head of the gaffer on a plate if glory isn’t delivered on the continent.
AFCON 2021 or 2022, we should say is no different, with Gernot Rohr under plenty of pressure. He has perhaps the most talented bunch of Eagles at his disposal seen in almost two decades.
The youngsters are becoming men, playing at the highest level is becoming a norm, and the player’s careers are monitored by the 200 million-plus scouts who love their players, from the heat of the market to the chills of the executive offices.
Here we look at transfers that will and have piqued the interest of Nigerians.
- Chidozie Awaziem to Sevilla
Porto. Leganes. Sevilla could be the next port of call for the versatile Awaziem. One of the bright lights of Leganes’ doomed La Liga campaign, the youngster carried the form he showed at the AFCON into this season’s La Liga.
This season, he has played at right-back, centre back and defensive midfield to consummate ease. Tackles per game (1.4), interceptions per game (1.2) and clearances per game (2.9) reflect his ability to read the game and calmness in 1v1s make him a difficult man to beat. It ranks second to his compatriot, Omeruo, who is also expected to make a move.
Awaziem is not the fanciest of footballers, however, his work ethic, drive and passion make him hard to look past. The discipline still needs some work, but Sevilla’s famed director Monchi would have that in mind.
For Gernot Rohr, he may need to look no further with Nigeria guaranteed a defensive utility player for the better part of this decade.
- Sadiq Umar to Lille
A shining star at the Rio 2016 Olympics, Sadiq Umar may have finally turned a corner. A predator in the penalty box, Umar encountered setbacks after moving to AS Roma and then on loan to Bologna.
The unforgiving Serie A wasn’t a place for him to develop, hence his move into the eyes of Serbia, where he has rebuilt his career at Partizan, with twelve goals this campaign from twenty-four appearances.
Should Lille sell Osimhen, he is reportedly high on Luis Campos’ radar to replace his countryman. Nigeria are never lacking centre forwards – a good headache for Gernot Rohr.
- Maduka Okoye to Sparta Rotterdam
Nigeria’s future number 1, Okoye has left Germany’s third tier, a stick with which fans used to beat him and reportedly headed to Holland, where he could expectedly be number 1.
Ace journalist Solace Chukwu sees a good opportunity for him to develop and develop his game, away from the prying eyes. It is better than the second division of Germany, where his parent club will participate in the 2020/21 season. An accumulation of top-flight experience would only move him to the front of Nigeria’s goalkeeping queue.
- Moses Simon to Nantes
One of the unheralded stars of the Gernot Rohr tenure, Moses was ridiculed and tagged not good enough. He was seen as too mechanical, with his performances in Spain not helping his case.
The 24-year-old arrived at Nantes on loan with a bang from the Spanish outfit and has just won the Club’s Player of the Season award. Nine months have sufficed for inclusion into the club’s team of the decade too, a huge honour considering he was there on loan. His ten-goal contributions in the league are the most of any individual at the club.
Big chances per game (2.8), key passes per game (1.4) and successful dribbles per game (1.4) are metrics that state his importance to the team. Moses boasts supreme work ethic and fine skill, and most importantly, is unafraid to have a go at you.
It is his eye for the goal that is underrated, coming up in clutch moments with decisive strikes, a fact Nigerians did turn the blind eye to for a long time. Now, the nation appreciates. Injuries aside, Moses would be amongst the first names on the team sheet in 2022.
- Cyriel Dessers to Genk
Cyriel Dessers has just put his foot in the door for the Super Eagles after a goal-laden season for Heracles, and he is back in Belgium, twenty goal contributions in the Eredivisie and eighteen years since first familiarizing himself with the terrains of the Luminous Arena.
He has Paul Onuachu and Stephen Odey for company, as Genk complete a stack of Nigerian forwards, a testimony of Onuachu’s measured success and Dessers’ impeccable form.
A late bloomer, Dessers is finally coming into his own, scoring goals and showing a technique that reminds one of Nigerian legend Segun “Mathematical” Odegbami.
Nigerians look forward to his partnership with Osimhen, and wherever he plays hitherto, the thought of him in an Eagles jersey excites.
- Osimhen to Napoli/Liverpool
The transfer saga that excites the most. Wherever Osimhen chooses, the aim is to see him succeed. He is gradually becoming the poster boy of the Super Eagles, and his next move is the bestowment of that title.
The less said, the better for the Marc-Vivien Foe prize winner. Eighteen goal contributions in the league. Difficult choices, Napoli or Liverpool?
- Samuel Kalu to Galatasaray
An immovable rock at Bordeaux, falling out and injury problems have hampered Samuel Kalu’s progress. A favourite of Rohr, Kalu terrorised defences when called upon at the last AFCON in Egypt, showing flair and joie de vivre.
A move away from Bordeaux, a team more interested in redesigning its logo, would do his confidence and work ethic a world of good. Galatasaray are reportedly interested. He wouldn’t look out of place at the Turk Telkom Arena. On his day, Kalu remains one of Nigeria’s finest wingers right now, if not the finest.
His trademark grin is one we are almost certain to see in Cameroon, all things been equal. The competition for Nigeria’s wing spots is at octane levels, the only way to get in is to play.
- Jamilu Collins to Schalke
If the bus to 2. Bundesliga broke down on the road, Collins and his Paderborn teammates would have still arrived in Germany’s second tier. Such was the swiftness of their descent.
However, Collins is already touted to stay in the Bundesliga. The left-back is drawing glances from David Wagner, whose Schalke could do with a sturdy left-back.
Limited going forward, Collins supplements this by staying astute in defence, holding his horses and ticking the right boxes. 1.4 successful dribbles per game, 2.3 tackles per game, 2.4 clearances per game and 2.3 interceptions per game places him amongst the top Bundesliga defenders.
Collins’ mix of old school and modern defending at full-back has come to stay in Nigeria’s defence and top-level football.
- Ayobami Amoo to Hammarby
A future Eagle without a doubt, diminutive Amoo’s move to Hammarby was celebrated in the Nigerian press with much aplomb. Now 18, he shone at the last U17 AFCON and U17 World Cup, endearing fans with his nimble footwork and game-changing ability.
Amoo’s stocky build allows him to get in and out of situations easily like a twirl. There’s a lot to improve on, such as passing and decision making, but his confidence and assuredness on the ball belie his years, and he is a hot favourite to shine as his career progresses. Sweden would be a great learning curve.
Is the future bright? Yes. Should the Eagles claim their “birthright”? It is open to debate. A trophy to be contested by fifty-four nations may be the heritage of a chosen few. For these nations, especially Nigeria, no pressure.