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Nwakali’s International Career Hangs In The Balance

At the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile, Kelechi Nwakali was unarguably the best player paraded by Nigeria in their triumphant campaign.

The 23-year-old effortlessly pulled the strings in the middle of the pack, to the delight of global football audience and ended up with the Golden Ball in his kitty as the best player of the tournament.

Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze also stood out at the tournament, but all fingers pointed at Nwakali as the first player to become a mainstay in the Super Eagles in the shortest possible time.

Arsenal Frustration

But fate played a game on Nwakali, with a move to Arsenal a year after lifting the cadet trophy in Chile proving to be a clog in the wheel. The Premier League giants never considered him for first-team football, as he was farmed out repeatedly until 2019 when Huesca signed him on a permanent basis after excelling during a season-long loan stint with the Spanish Segunda Division side.

Nwakali had served loan terms at MVV Maastricht, VVV-Venlo and Porto B before joining Huesca, who also loaned him out to another Segunda Division side, Alcorcón in the 2020-2021 season, scoring four times in 18 matches, a feat that has now earned him a regular first-team action at Huesca

Whilst he was junketing Europe at the instance of Arsenal, Chukwueze and Osimhen were carving a niche for themselves at Villarreal and Sporting Charleroi respectively. The former rose through the ranks to become a regular first-team player at his Spanish La Liga side while the latter matured rapidly from moving from Wolfburg to Sporting Charleroi to Lille and current club, Napoli, who signed him on a club record €70 million from Lille last summer.

Ignored By Gernot Rohr

Nwakali, who has yet to be capped at senior level, had been completely ignored by former Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, who paid deaf ears to Nigerians’ yearnings for a playmaker that was obviously lacking in his team and Nwakali’s consistent stellar displays for Huesca, where has started 12 of 18 matches in the current season.

The former Gabon coach renowned for his unprecedented player turnover during his five years in the saddle never saw the need to rejuvenate his midfeld.

The Franco-German recently being relieved of the reins by Nigeria Football Federation came as cheering news to Nwakali and his numerous fans. Things appeared to be working in his favour with Augustine Eguavoen’s appointment as Super Eagles interim coach, saddled with the responsibility of tinkering the team at 2021 Africa Cup of Nations starting January 9 in Cameroun.

Seen Relevant By Eguavoen

As fate would have it, Rohr already submitted a provisional list of 37 players to NFF that forwarded it to CAF, with Nwakali’s name conspicuously missing.

Knowing the value Nwakali can add to his team, especially where it concerns giving precise passes to strikers, Eguavoen made frantic efforts to alter the list by adding five players, including Nwakali, a move that has now been rebuffed by CAF, according to unconfirmed reports on Wednesday.

CAF being adamant on its stance means Nigeria will be denied the services of one of their best midfield players at the biennial soccer fiesta.

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