Nigerian players were very active during the January transfer window with several moving to Spain to perhaps enhance their chances of being in Gernot Rohr’s squad to the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Completesportsnigeria.com’s JAMES AGBEREBI lists five Nigerian players, including the retired international Emmanuel Emenike, who could give their chances of making the 2018 FIFA World Cup squad a huge boost following LaLiga moves…
OGHENEKARO ETEBO (Las Palmas)
Oghenekaro Etebo played in three games for Nigeria during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
He even had an assist, creating Nigeria’s second goal in a 3-1 win against Algeria in Uyo which John Mikel Obi scored.
But he lost his place in the starting 11 in subsequent Eagles games and might not be guaranteed a spot in the squad to the World Cup.
During the January transfer window, Etebo joined Spanish LaLiga club Las Palmas on loan from Portuguese top flight side Feirense.
Just like in Feirense, Etebo has continued to command a regular starting place, featuring in the games against Malaga and Athletic Bilbao.
As long as the diminutive midfielder continues to play regularly for Las Palmas, barring injury, he should be on the plane to Russia.
BROWN IDEYE (Malaga)
The Super Eagles’ 2-1 away win against Zambia in Ndola on matchday 1 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier was Brown Ideye’s only appearance in the qualifying campaign.
And after making the bench in the game against Algeria on matchday 2, Ideye was not invited in the remaining qualifers.
After an uneventful time with Chinese Super League club Tianjin Teda where he was left out of first team actions, Ideye joined Malaga on loan and seems to have slotted in nicely in the team.
Since joining Malaga, Ideye has made three appearances, against Atletico Madrid and Las Palmas, and played for 90 minutes and scored against Valencia on Saturday.
Moving to Spain could open the doors for Ideye to be in the party to Russia since the Eagles only boast one recognised out and striker in Odion Ighalo.
Provided he stays fit, remains a regular and impresses for Malaga, the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner should be considered for selection. He might have found redemption in LaLiga.
IMOH EZEKIEL (Las Palmas)
One of the players whose absence from the Super Eagles remains a mystery, Imoh Ezekiel is one player who can be a good addition to the Russia-bound squad.
Ezekiel’s only appearance for Nigeria at a major torunament was at the 2016 Rio Olympics where he was outstanding as the team won bronze.
His only appearance for the Super Eagles was coming on as a second half substitute in a 0-0 friendly against Mexico in 2014.
Following his forgettable experience at Konyaspor where he made nine appearances without scoring a single goal, Ezekiel joined Las Palmas as a free agent.
With the 2018 World Cup still four months away, Ezekiel can still do enough to convince Gernot Rohr for a place in his squad.
However, that will only be achieved if he gets regular playing time and also reproduces his impressive performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
ISAAC SUCCESS (Malaga)
Despite his high-profile move from Granada to Watford in a record transfer fee, estimated around £12.5 million, Isaac Success has failed to impress.
Success made 19 appearances for Watford , scoring just one goal, a return that is deemed not good enough especially for a player bought for such an amount.
During the January transfer window, Success moved to Malaga on loan and even made his debut in a 1-0 loss to Las Palmas, coming on a second half substitute.
He was however dropped from the squad in the 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid with Malaga coach coming out to say Success is yet to hit peak form.
Despite his recent struggles, Success has what it takes to recover the form which made Watford shell out such an amount for his services.
And together with a couple of good outings for Malaga, Success can make a strong case for a spot in Russia.
EMMANUEL EMENIKE (Las Palmas)
Emmanuel Emenike joined the legion of Nigerian players who moved to the Spanish LaLiga during the January transfer window when he joined Las Palmas on loan from Olympiacos of Greece.
Emenike’s move was as a result of lack of regular playing time with Olympiacos and would definitely feel at home due to the arrival of Oghenekaro Etebo and Imoh Ezekiel to Las Palmas. He is yet to make his debut.
After helping Nigeria win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and featuring at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Emenike announced his retirement from international football in 2015.
But he could still rescind his decision and follow in the footsteps of football greats like Zinedine Zidane, Henrik Larsson, Claude Makelele and Lilian Thuram, who had to come out of retirement to feature for their countries at a major tournament.
However, Emenike must do the business on the field to make Gernot Rohr force him out of retirement.