FORMER Wimbledon and Aston Villa striker John Fashanu has warned Arsenal fullback Bukayo Saka not to opt for England ahead of Nigeria because the Three Lions will only use him for a few games and dump him while the Super Eagles offers a lengthy career.
Saka, 18, who added another feather to his cap yesterday, when he helped Arsenal to win the English Charity Shield, provided an assist for the Gunners 18th minute opening goal scored by skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With the match ending 1-1, it was eventually decided by a penalty shootout which Arsenal won 5-4.
Nigerian Football Federation officials have Saka in their sights but are facing a bitter struggle with England as manager Gareth Southgate is also hopeful of capping the teenager. Last week, however, Nigeria’s hopes of Saka to commit to the Super Eagles increased after he was left out of the latest England squad to prosecute next month’s Uefa Nations League matches against Iceland and Denmark.
Instead, Saka, along with compatriot Ebere Eze, who recently joined Crystal Palace, were invited to the England U21 squad. With both players needing to make decisions on their senior international futures soon, Fashanu has cautioned Saka not to make the same mistake he made way back in his playing days when he snubbed the Super Eagles for a chance in the Three Lions.
Fashanu said: “Looking back I know if I had the opportunity again I will definitely choose Nigeria even if I had to pay I wouldn’t care, but then, being a young player you always think of the money first. Now I will tell the young lad don’t make the same mistake I made as things have changed.
“Even if they are asking for money from the coach and that’s only a rumour, I’m not saying it is true ,you have to stand strong and say you’re black and you will play for Nigeria. England will let you play three four five matches like I did which is great and they will never use you again whereas Nigeria will continue to use you all the way through.”
Saka, who came through the youth ranks with the Hale End Academy, forced his way into the Arsenal team last season. Seen as a potential top class player, the youngster has already featured for England at the U16, U17, U17 and U18 levels, so should Nigeria want to acquire his services, the country will need to make a formal switch application through Fifa.
Like Fashanu, several players who opted for England ahead of Nigeria like Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Dele Alli have had patchy international career. In contrast, the likes of Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi and Ola Aina who chose Nigeria ahead of England have gone on to become regular internationals.