Euro 2024: Nigeria risk losing prospect to Italy, hope remains for two others

Italy manager Luciano Spalletti has named a 30-man provisional squad for the EURO 2024 campaign on Thursday.

The Italians are the defending champions, having defeated Gareth Southgate's England at Wembley three years ago.

Since their triumph, Roberto Mancini stepped down from his position following their failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The list featured Michael Folorunsho, with Michael Kayode conspicuously missing. There was no place for Destiny Udogie, who has been sidelined through injury.

However, all three players except Folorunsho have represented Italy at various levels, despite their Nigerian roots.

Folorunsho, 26 has had an impressive campaign with Hellas Verona on loan from Napoli, helping them retain their Serie A status.

Folorunsho has played 34 games, starting in 33 of them, averaging 82 minutes per game, with five goals scored and one assist registered.

In March 2024, Folorunsho received his first call-up to the Italy national team from head coach Luciano Spalletti.

However, he did not play in the friendly matches against Venezuela and Ecuador, which were held in the United States.

Even if he had featured against Venezuela and Ecuador, it would only have complicated his potential nationality switch as he would still have yet to be capped in a competitive game for the Azzurri. Spalletti, though, remains a huge fan of Folorunsho, who he described as “a beast” after handing him his first international call-up.

“Buongiorno is very strong, Bellanova is a force of nature, Calafiori is ready, Fabbian is a surprise, Gaetano is playing now, Folorunsho is a beast and then Cambiaso, Baldanzi, Lucca, Carnesecchi, Di Gregorio, Provedel… There may be new petals in the squad. The list is 23 but I will bring four or six more to the pre-call [before the Euros],” Spalletti told Gazzetta dello Sport

Michael Kayode's omission from Spalletti's squad has sparked discussions among Azurri fans. He is recognised as one of the most promising prospects in European football at the moment.

As a versatile player, Kayode has made 25 Serie A appearances, starting in 21 of them, scoring one goal, and registering one assist.

Super Eagles risk losing Michael Kayode
Photo by Icon Sport

Destiny Udogie, on the other hand, has made 28 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur, scoring two goals and providing three assists.

The 21-year-old received his maiden call-up to the Italian senior national team from Spalletti for their UEFA Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and England.

He made his debut for Italy on 14 October 2023, coming on as a substitute in the 79th minute of the match against Malta, where he assisted Davide Frattesi's goal in a 4–0 victory.

Three days later, he earned his first international start in a 3–1 defeat to England at Wembley Stadium.

Hope still alive for Nigeria to land Folorunsho, Kayode, and Udogie

Despite their current international status, there remains hope for Nigeria to secure the talents of Folorunsho, Kayode, and Udogie, all of whom have strong connections to the country through their Nigerian roots.

Folorunsho, born in Rome to Nigerian parents, has yet to represent Italy at any level, leaving the door open for a potential switch to the Nigerian national team.

His impressive performances and strong ties to Nigeria make him a promising prospect for the Super Eagles.

Kayode has represented Italy at the youth levels but has not yet made an appearance for the senior national team.

His Nigerian heritage and the allure of playing for his ancestral country provide an opportunity for Nigeria to attract him to their squad in the future.

Udogie, who has made three appearances for Italy at the senior level, is close to becoming ineligible to switch allegiance to Nigeria due to FIFA regulations.

Super Eagles risk losing Michael Folorunsho
Photo by Icon Sport

However, with his injury preventing him from participating being named in Spalleti's Euro 2024 squad, there remains a possibility that he could still choose to represent Nigeria in the future.

Should Nigeria pursue Folorunsho, Kayode, and Udogie despite Super Eagles' talent influx?

Nigeria's Super Eagles have long been a powerhouse in African football, boasting a deep pool of talented players both domestically and abroad.

With the emergence of new stars and a growing number of players plying their trade in top European leagues, the question arises: should Nigeria continue to pursue players like Folorunsho, Kayode, and Udogie, who have connections to the country but have already represented Italy at various levels?

Despite the influx of talent into the Super Eagles, Folorunsho, Kayode, and Udogie should still be pursued by Nigeria.

They have the potential to provide a different dynamic to the squad and increase the level of competition for starting positions, which can only improve the overall performance of the team.

While Nigeria already possess an avalanche of talent in the Super Eagles, the addition of Folorunsho, Kayode, and Udogie would provide depth, competition, and an injection of new energy to the team.

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
His passion for storytelling and commitment to accuracy have established him as a trusted authority in sports journalism in Ghana, captivating audiences with his engaging narratives and unparalleled expertise.
Godfred holds a degree in Integrated Development Studies (Social and Development Administration option) from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.