Chelsea youngster Ola Aina 'persuaded' to represent Nigeria rather than England

Jack Pitt-Brooke
The Independent
Ola Aina has made five senior appearances for Chelsea this season: Getty
Ola Aina has made five senior appearances for Chelsea this season: Getty

The Nigeria Football Federation believes it has persuaded England under-20 international Ola Aina to represent them as part of a number of new English-born or English-raised recruits for the Super Eagles.

Nigeria have been based in Barnet for this international break, drawing 1-1 with Senegal on Thursday evening. They were due to play Burkina Faso on Monday night but that game was cancelled when the Burkinabe players could not secure visas.

More importantly, the NFF has been inviting English-based players to train with them, to introduce them to the squad and the staff, and believes it has secured the international futures of five youngsters this week. The NFF is keen to strengthen its squad with English-based players ahead of next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Ola Aina is the most famous name, the 20-year-old right back having made five senior appearances for Chelsea this season. Aina, who was born in south London, has represented England at under-16, u-17, u-18, u-19 and u-20 level. He won the last of his six England u-20 caps one year ago today, in an England team alongside Harry Winks and Marcus Rashford.

But Aina has been training with Nigeria in Barnet over the last few days, and has now decided that his international future lies with them. He is expected to be in the Nigeria squad for their next competitive game, a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, at home to South Africa on 9 June.

Eberechi Eze, the Queens Park Rangers 18-year-old who signed his first professional deal in January and made his debut this season has also been in training with the Nigeria squad on Sunday and Monday. He is expected to make a final decision soon as is thought to be strongly leaning towards choosing Nigeria.

Fred Onyedinma was not part of the Nigeria training camp having played for Millwall in their 1-0 defeat to Swindon Town on Saturday afternoon. But the 20-year-old, who was born in Lagos and moved to east London when he was three, is thought to be close to committing his future to Nigeria too.

The NFF are also confident that they have secured the future of Josh Maja, the 18-year-old Sunderland forward, although he did not train with them this week, and Joe Aribo, the 20-year-old Charlton Athletic midfielder signed from Staines Town in 2015.

Recruiting players would represent a significant success for the NFF after persuading Alex Iwobi of Arsenal to play for them, after Iwobi had played for England up to Under-18s level. After the success of this week, the NFF will turn their attention to their next target, Everton winger Ademola Lookman. The 19-year-old, who played for England Under-20s against France on Saturday, was born in London to Nigerian parents but has not yet decided on his senior international future.

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