Could Saka still opt for the Nigeria national team?
Bukayo Saka was one of the most exciting players to watch in the recent UEFA Euro 2020 tournament. Though he didn’t start every game with the English national team, anytime the midfielder took to the field, he brought with him explosive, creative energy.
Since graduating from Arsenal’s youth academy to its senior squad in 2018, Saka has become one of the most promising budding stars in the Premier League and association football as a whole.
In early 2020, he made his way onto Arsenal’s starting lineup. Since then, he’s helped Arsenal take home a much-needed FA Cup title, as well as being named Europe League Player of the Week for his performance in April against Slavia Prague.
Some might even argue that Saka has been one of manager Mikel Arteta’s saving graces after a rocky 2020-21 season. The team’s inconsistency is an issue that Saka will also help rectify in the future by being a solid resource in the midfield, capable of hustling back on defense or exploding down the line on a break.
He even made appearances as a prop bet in the recent UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, where free bets from top sportsbooks were on offer up until the 11 July finals. Those who wagered on the budding star to be named man of the match in the tournament earned a payout on 22 June, when Saka’s efforts helped England push past the group stage in a 1-0 win against Czech Republic.
Looking ahead, Saka is sure to be a feature in reports from analysts who set lines and pundits who make picks for the 2022 World Cup and upcoming UEFA competitions. But is it possible Saka could be wearing a Flying Eagles jersey in the future?
Performance with the Three Lions
Saka was born in London, which makes him a British citizen. However, his parents hail from Nigeria, which means Saka is also eligible to join the Nigerian national team. Unfortunately, on 20 October 2020, the young player announced his decision to play for the English side.
The announcement came on Nigeria’s Independence Day. Saka explained his reasoning for choosing the English side to Nigerian publication Own Goal Nigeria, saying that he spent a limited time in the country growing up.
Saka is a Londoner through and through. He doesn’t feel a deep-rooted connection to Nigeria on the same level that he feels toward England, which is only natural considering he’s spent the vast majority of his life in the UK. In the interview, he stated that he hopes his Nigerian fans understand his decision-making.
A Future With the Flying Eagles Isn’t Immediately Likely
Another reason Saka gave for choosing to play for the Three Lions national team was the future of the squad. He wants to be part of the incoming generation of English players alongside talents like Reece James and Tariq Lamptey.
Saka is poised to become a leader of the squad in the future. To do so, it’s important that he lay the foundation for his work ethic, talent, and dedication now. However, the Euro 2020 finals ended on a sour note for the midfielder.
As the final penalty taker for the English side in a finals shootout against Italy, Saka missed his chance. England’s loss resulted in an immediate backlash against Saka, directed via social media platforms. Originally, some Flying Eagles fans speculated the experience could be enough to make Saka reconsider his national team.
However, the situation was rectified through fan support and legal action. On social media, football fans from around the world commented on Saka’s pages to show their support and adoration for his talent. In the meantime, UK officials undertook action to disable social media accounts posting hateful rhetoric.
Additionally, England will likely qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. With another prestigious tournament on the docket, Saka is likely to continue working with the English national team and attempt to find a position as a starter in the tournament.
A switch to the Flying Eagles squad would be too abrupt to prepare for the World Cup at this stage. Though it’s not an impossible prospect in the distant future, it’s unlikely Saka will join the Nigerian team in the next few years.