Euro 2020: Five players of Nigerian descent set to light up the European Championships

The 16th edition of the UEFA European Championship kicks off today, a year after its initial commencement was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Still to be referred to as Euro 2020, the tournament, featuring 24 national teams, will run from June 11 – July 11, 2021, across 11 host countries.

At least five of the 624 players gearing up to participate in this continental championship have Nigerian blood running through their veins.

And’s Imhons Erons cast the spotlight on these incredible talents who could have been soaring with the Super Eagles under different circumstances.

1. Manuel Obafemi Akanji (Switzerland)

Euro 2020: Five players of Nigerian descent set to light up the European Championships

Tough like a terrier and hard as a nail, Manuel Akanji would have fitted perfectly at the heart of the Super Eagles defence if he had chosen to represent the West African nation.

But the Borussia Dortmund defender, born to a Swiss mother and a Nigerian father, is one of the stars Switzerland are banking on to enjoy a brilliant run at the Euros.

Akanji was a member of the Swiss team to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. And the 25-year-old also played in the 2019 UEFA Nations League Finals, where his team finished 4th.

These experiences will give the 1.86 m tall defender the edge over many strikers when the ball starts rolling at Euro 2020.

2. David Olatokunbo Alaba (Austria)

Euro 2020: Five players of Nigerian descent set to light up the European Championships

The one that actually got away is David Alaba. Once reportedly snubbed as a teenager by the handlers of Nigeria’s cadet teams, Alaba has gone on to become one of the best left-backs of his generation.

He may not have won much with the Austrian national team, but the defender is a seven-time winner of the Austrian Footballer of the Year award.

A legend at Bayern Munich, Alaba made over 400 appearances for the Bundesliga giants, winning 27 honours, including ten Bundesliga titles and the UEFA Champions League in 2013 and 2020.

The 28-year-old will be joining Real Madrid after the Euros to open a new chapter of an incredible career. What a miss for Nigeria!

3. Karim Onisiwo (Austria)

Euro 2020: Five players of Nigerian descent set to light up the European Championships

Like Alaba, Karim Onisiwo is another player of Nigerian descent who chose to fight for the colours of Austria.

The striker has not been prolific for club and country, though, and he may not be considered as big a miss as his international teammate.

Onisiwo has managed just nine league goals for Mainz since signing for the German club in 2016 and has only a solitary strike for the national side in eight matches.

Still, Austrian fans will hope he can rediscover his scoring touch and fire the Boys to victory at the continental championships.

4. Jamal Musiala (Germany)

Jamal Musiala

Born in Stuttgart to a German mother and British-Nigerian father, Jamal Musiala arrived in England at seven. He was, therefore, eligible to represent any of these three countries.

Germany eventually won the race to the heart of this highly-rated youngster and will look to unleash him on hapless opponents at the Euro 2020.

Still in his teens, Musiala comes into his first-ever European Championship as a Bundesliga champion with Bayern Munich.

Earlier in the year, the young attacking midfielder became the youngest player to score a goal for a German club in the UEFA Champions League after scoring the second goal in the first leg of Bayern Munich’s 4-1 win over Lazio.

And it would be a delight to see him deliver the goods at the grandest stage of European football.

5. Bukayo Ayoyinka Saka

Bukayo Saka

While England dropped Eberechi Eze due to injury and Dele Alli due to poor form, the Three Lions could not ignore the incredible talent of another youngster of Nigerian descent, Bukayo Saka.

Only just 19, Saka scooped the 2020/21 Arsenal Player of the Season Award while playing in several roles, including as a winger, left-back, or central midfielder for the Gunners.

He was tipped for great things with the Super Eagles despite having represented England at under-16, under-17, under-18, under-19, and under-21 levels.

But England have secured his allegiance for all times, and he would be one of the players saddled with tasks of providing the creative spark for the Three Lions in their search for the continental crown.

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