Snubbed by England, Adarabioyo’s Nigerian door reopens

Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo‘s international future is wide open again. Omitted from England's provisional squad for EURO 2024, the 26-year-old defender could now choose to represent Nigeria, the land of his parents.

This development unlocks the possibility of Adarabioyo switching allegiance to the Super Eagles. He meets FIFA's eligibility criteria, having never played more than three competitive games for England before turning 21. With Harry Maguire, John Stones, and Lewis Dunk preferred by manager Gareth Southgate, Adarabioyo's path to the England squad seems unclear.

Previously representing England at youth levels, a EURO 2024 appearance would have likely cemented his decision to play for the Three Lions. However, this omission opens the door for Nigeria to potentially gain a valuable defender with Premier League experience.

Will Adarabioyo choose to represent his ancestral homeland? The wait is on to see if he opts for the Super Eagles or continues his pursuit of a place in the England squad.

Adarabioyo is on Nigeria’s radar

Tosin Adarabioyo, born in Manchester to Nigerian parents, finds himself caught in a tug-of-war between the country of his birth and his ancestral homeland.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has a long-standing interest in Adarabioyo. They reportedly faced initial rejection from the defender, but in 2020, he hinted at a potential switch, expressing his desire to represent either England or Nigeria at the 2022 World Cup. However, neither team selected him, leaving his international options unclear.

Despite these complications, Adarabioyo's experience in the Premier League makes him a valuable addition to Nigeria's defense. The NFF clearly see his potential, and their pursuit continues. In 2022, they even sent Technical Director Augustine Eguavoen to watch Adarabioyo play for Fulham against Crystal Palace. Unfortunately, Eguavoen witnessed Adarabioyo remain on the bench throughout the 3-0 defeat.

Adding another layer of intrigue, reports suggested Adarabioyo declared his commitment to the Super Eagles before the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. However, this reported commitment wasn't followed by an official FIFA request, a necessary step for switching allegiances. This missed opportunity highlights the complexities of the situation.

How Tosin Adarabioyo can shore up Nigeria's defense

Under Marco Silva's leadership at Fulham, Tosin Adarabioyo and Calvin Bassey have formed a formidable central defensive partnership, pushing out experienced players like Tim Ream and Issa Diop. While Bassey is already a key member of the Super Eagles backline, Adarabioyo could be the perfect long-term solution alongside him, potentially replacing the aging captain, William Troost-Ekong.

At just 26 years old, Adarabioyo has emerged as a standout defender in the Premier League. He possesses a rare combination of physical strength, composure with the ball at his feet, and tactical intelligence that surpasses his experience. Standing at an imposing 1.96 meters, he dominates the penalty area, winning aerial duels with authority and offering a reassuring presence in defensive set pieces – an area where Nigeria has historically struggled.

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One of Adarabioyo's most valuable skills is his ability to read the game and anticipate the opposition's movements. This allows him to position himself effectively for interceptions and snuff out attacks before they become dangerous. He remains calm under pressure and makes well-timed tackles, providing much-needed reliability in the heart of the defence – a quality currently lacking in Nigeria's backline.

Beyond his defensive prowess, Adarabioyo's ability to initiate counter-attacks and launch long passes could add a new dimension to Nigeria's offensive play. This skillset would allow for a seamless transition from defence to attack, making the Super Eagles a more well-rounded team.

Adarabioyo is the toast of the town

Transfer expert Fabrizio Romano reports that Manchester United, Chelsea and Newcastle are battling for the signature of Fulham central defender Tosin Adarabioyo. 

As his contract with the Cottagers is set to expire in the summer, numerous clubs are lining up to secure his signature for free, drawn by his experience and quality.

Adarabioyo has previously been linked with Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, both of whom are looking to strengthen their defensive departments in the upcoming transfer window.

Italian giants AC Milan are considering making a move for Adarabioyo, a graduate of the Manchester City Academy. However, they face a tough challenge in outbidding English clubs interested in him.

Fulham are keen on extending the contract of Adarabioyo, who currently earns £40,000 per week, to prevent him from leaving for free this summer. They plan to continue negotiations with the centre-back to retain him as one of their key players.

Adarabioyo joined Fulham on a three-year deal in October 2020 after spending 17 years at Manchester City.

The club holds the option to prolong the contract for an additional year. While the precise transfer fee remains undisclosed, local media reports have hinted at a potential £2 million payout to Manchester City for the transfer, alongside a 20% share of any subsequent transaction proceeds.

Nigeria's former Three Lions

Nigeria's national football team, the Super Eagles, have a rich history of success. An important factor in their recent rise has been the influx of talented players who honed their skills in other countries, but ultimately chose to represent their Nigerian roots. This trend of players switching allegiance from youth international programs to the senior Nigerian team is creating a powerful combination of home-grown talent and international experience.

Several prominent players exemplify this trend. Ademola Lookman switched from England U-21s to Nigeria in 2022. Olaoluwa Aina represented England at various youth levels but has been a key player for the Super Eagles since 2017. 

Other names like Victor Moses, Alexander Iwobi, and Joseph Ayodele-Aribo all followed similar paths, bringing their skills developed in European academies to the Nigerian national team.

Super Eagles players @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

This trend offers several advantages for the Super Eagles. Players like Lookman and Aina come with experience in top European leagues, raising the overall quality and tactical understanding of the team. They also bring a fresh perspective and hunger to the national team, having fought for their place on the squad.

There are also players like Shola Ameobi and Bright Osayi-Samuel who, while born in England, possess a strong Nigerian heritage and have opted to represent the Super Eagles. This deepens the connection between the national team and the Nigerian diaspora, fostering greater support and excitement.

The decision to switch allegiance is not always straightforward. These players have often spent their formative years in other countries and may have felt a strong connection to their youth international teams. 

Looking forward, this trend of players with international experience choosing Nigeria is likely to continue. It presents a significant opportunity for the Super Eagles to challenge for major trophies and solidify their position as a dominant force in African football.

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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.