Super Eagles’ Missed Opportunities: Saka, Barkley, and 5 European Stars That Eluded Nigeria’s Grasp

Super Eagles’ Missed Opportunities: Saka, Barkley, and 5 European Stars That Eluded Nigeria’s Grasp

Ero Samson
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
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  • The Super Eagles of Nigeria are blessed with a flurry of talents
  • A few elite stars have opted against playing for the Eagles
  • Sports Brief takes a look at five players who opted against playing for Nigeria

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have never been short of amazing talents.

Whether it being homegrown or recalled from the foreign scenes, the three-time African Champions have heralded Africa’s footballing stages with a flurry of enviable talents.

Presently, the Super Eagles are blessed with a roster of players making significant strides in European football. Among them are the recently crowned African Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen, Victor Boniface from Bayer Leverkusen, and AC Milan’s pacy winger Samuel Chukwueze.

Osimhen, Chukwueze, Nigeria
Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze with their medals after the 2019 African Cup of Nations match between Tunisia and Nigeria at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo. Image: Ulrik Pedersen.
Source: Getty Images

Despite the wealth of talent within the Nigerian national team, a quite significant set of elite stars with Nigerian heritage have often opted against representing the Super Eagles.

While some have openly expressed their disinterest in playing for the national team, others initially played for their country of birth before achieving stardom.

This decision has left many Nigerians pondering what could have been. Nonetheless, in this piece, Sports Brief sheds light on five distinguished European stars who could have chosen to play for the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

Ross Barkley

The Luton Town midfielder was once tipped to be the future of the England national side after bursting onto the scenes with Merseyside club Everton.

The 30-year-old, who showcased his outstanding talents as an attacking midfielder, was eligible for Nigeria through his grandparents despite carrying his mother's maiden name instead of his father's.

While Barkley could have significantly strengthened the Eagles' midfield in the past decade, he ultimately chose to don the England national team jersey. Whoscored data reveals that Barkley has made 33 appearances and netted six goals for the Three Lions.

Bukayo Saka

When Saka first emerged with Arsenal, there was sincere optimism that he might eventually choose to play for Nigeria, his parents' homeland. Nonetheless, the prominent forward ended up donning the England jersey and played a crucial role in Gareth Southgate's team reaching the final of the 2021 European Championships.

Since his debut in September 2020, the 22-year-old has accumulated 32 appearances and scored 11 goals for England, as reported by data from Fotmob.

Manuel Akanji

The versatile Swiss defender, who remains a crucial presence in the talent-rich Manchester City squad, also features on our list of players who chose to represent a European side over the Eagles.

The 28-year-old, having made 57 appearances for Murat Yakin's team, could have formed a formidable defensive partnership, whether alongside Calvin Bassey of Fulham or any other player in the Super Eagles of Nigeria team.

David Alaba

The experienced central defender, who recently reached the milestone of earning over a hundred caps for the Austrian national side, is also included in our list of players who had the opportunity to play for the Nigeria national team.

The Real Marid defender, who can play either as a left-back or centre-back, boasts an impressive resume with three Champions League titles and numerous league triumphs earned with both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

The plethora of accolades achieved by the Austrian could have positioned Alaba as the most decorated Super Eagles player in history.

Karim Adeyemi

Adeyemi is one of the many thrilling dual-nationality players who had the potential to represent Nigeria. He has participated in four matches for the German national side since his debut in August 2021.

The 20-year-old marked his German national team debut with a goal in a commanding 6-0 victory over Armenia. However, given the intense competition, he faces a formidable challenge to secure a spot in the World Cup squad.

Kalou weary of Nigeria

Sports Brief in a previous report highlighted Former Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou is weary of 'dangerous' Nigeria ahead of their game against Ivory Cup at the Africa Cup of Nations next year.

The host nation is slated to face the Super Eagles in their second Group A game on January 18, 2024.

The two-time African champions will open the tournament with a tricky game against Guinea Bissau before completing their group with a match against Equatorial Guinea.

Ero Samson photo
Ero Samson
Samson Ero is a sports journalist with a track record of over five years in the Nigerian media industry. He graduated from Nigerian Institute of Journalism (2021-2023).