Okoli: Nigerian defender joins Leicester, relishing challenge of ‘best league in the world’

Leicester City have secured the signing of promising Italian-Nigerian defender Caleb Okoli from Italian Serie A side Atalanta, subject to Premier League and international clearance.

The 22-year-old center-back, who represented Italy at the 2023 European U21 Championship, has put pen to paper on a five-year contract, bolstering the Foxes' defensive options for the upcoming Premier League season.

Okoli expressed his delight at joining Leicester City, viewing it as a significant step forward in his burgeoning career. “I think now is the right moment [for me] to make a step forward and a very big one,” he declared to Leicester's official website.

“I'm very happy with the choice I made, so I'm very excited to start in the Premier League.”

Okoli also emphasized his readiness to hit the ground running with his new club.

“Now I'm here in Leicester I'm feeling ready to start with my new team,” he said. “The Premier League is the best league in the world.

“Leicester is a beautiful club, an important club and the two combined together, so I took this opportunity to come and express myself in the Premier League.”

Caleb Okoli: Career to date

Born in Vicenza, Italy, Okoli joined Atalanta's youth setup in 2015 and quickly progressed through the ranks. He was part of the club's U19 team that lifted the National Youth Super Cup (Primavera) title in 2019.

To gain experience in senior football, Okoli embarked on a loan spell at SPAL in Serie B for the 2020/21 season, for whom he featured in 16 league matches.

Caleb Okoli: Nigerian defender joins Leicester, relishing challenge of 'best league in the world'
Photo by Icon Sport

Okoli's return to Atalanta saw him make his long-awaited Serie A debut in August 2022, coming on against Sampdoria in a 2-0 win. His consistent performances throughout the 2022/23 season – contributing to 17 appearances – were instrumental in Atalanta securing a fifth-place finish and qualification for the UEFA Europa League.

Seeking further playing time to refine his skills, Okoli joined newly promoted Serie A outfit Frosinone on loan for the 2023/24 season, making 37 appearances across all competitions. These consistent performances have not only bolstered his reputation, but also opened the door for a potential international tug-of-war.

While Okoli has represented Italy at various youth levels (U19, U20, and U21), his Nigerian roots make him eligible to play for the Super Eagles.

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Toyosi Afolayan

Toyosi Afolayan is a sports journalist who breathes life into the games we love. He loves to combine insightful analysis with historical background, creating a richer understanding of sports. Afolayan's expertise ranges from captivating narratives to live broadcasts, captivating audiences across platforms like Ojbsport, AllNigeriaSoccer, TVC Entertainment, Bounce Networks, Kwara TV, ICIR, EaglesTracker, and NFF TV. His background in History and International Studies adds depth, revealing the connections between sports, politics, and national identity.