Gernot Rohr has a problem ahead of Nigeria’s final games for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, but it is an excellent problem to have.
The former Bordeaux manager has a decision to make in the attacking department following the impressive performances in Europe this season.
While Victor Osimhen made headlines before the start of the season after his record-breaking move to Napoli, he is yet to justify the fee and has been overshadowed by other Nigerian attackers in Europe.
Top of the list is Paul Onuachu, who is having the best of his season in the Belgian top-flight. The 26-year-old is currently the top scorer in the Jupiler League with 23 goals.
In Germany, Taiwo Awoniyi has found his feet finally after his previous struggles. The Nigerian is currently on loan at Union Berlin from Liverpool and has five goals and two assists in 19 league games.
Sadiq Umar is another player having a brilliant season. The 24-year-old is leading Almeria’s promotion charge to the Spanish top-flight with 12 goals in 22 games.
Terem Moffi is Nigeria’s breakout star this season, with the former Kortjrik forward impressing in the French Ligue 1. Moffi, who is Alex Iwobi’s childhood friend, has scored eight goals in 18 league matches for Lorient this season.
However, while these are good problems for Rohr ahead of next month, there’s one player the German tactician should consider giving a chance- and that’s Josh Maja.
Maja burst into public consciousness at Sunderland. Initially, he played for the Black Cats U-18 side, but he was promoted to the U-23 side just a few months later. He didn’t stay with the U-23 side for so long before becoming a full member of the first team.
While his first season went under the radar, Maja took League one by storm in the 2018/2019 season, scoring 15 times in 24 games.
Maja would not finish the season with Sunderland as his form alerted Bordeaux, who paid €1.70m to sign him in January.
The move to Bordeaux offered Maja a chance to continue his development in the French top-flight. However, the 22-year-old never really settled at Bordeaux, scoring 11 times in 48 games.
His first six months at the club was a settling-in period, but at the start of his first full season, things were looking up for him as he earned a call-up to the Super Eagles squad, making his debut in the 2-2 draw against Ukraine.
But that’s Maja’s only cap so far as he has not been invited to the squad since then. His role at Bordeaux did not help his cause as he was used mostly as a substitute, and that saw him drop in the pecking order in the national team.
This season, Maja made 17 appearances for Les Girondins, starting just 11 games. But with him underperforming in France, Fulham took up the chance to sign him on loan, and it has proven to be a success so far.
After coming on as a substitute in the draw at West Ham, Maja announced himself to the Premier League on his full debut as he scored a brace in Fulham’s stunning win over Everton.
It was indeed a match that showed Maja’s quality, strength and why he is an exciting youngster. The 22-year-old’s link-up play was brilliant, while his positioning was equally impressive- and that showed in the two goals he scored on the night.
And with him showing signs of regaining his form again, it may be the time for him to get his chance in the Nigerian national team.
The three-time African champions play their final Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers against the Benin Republic and Lesotho next month.
Although Rohr is expected to stick with most of the regulars when he names his squad, he is likely to bring in fresh faces in the attack, and with Maja in fine form, he deserves his chance in the team.
Speaking ahead of the encounter, the former Burkina Faso manager confirmed that only the fittest attackers would be invited for the two games.
Maja appears to fit in perfectly even though the likes of Onuachu and Moffi have a case. However, it not a secret that Rohr is not a fan of Onuachu while Moffi is still unproven at the international level.
Also, the 67-year-old emphasised having fast attackers as Nigeria’s game rely on quick strikers and wingers, which is one of Maja’s qualities. Rohr is aware of Maja’s recent form, and he spoke glowingly about it in a recent interview.
“Yes, I’m very happy for him because we saw him a lot in Bordeaux not playing, on the bench, coming in sometimes. But he’s really succeeding now. His first match, he scored two goals. We are happy for him.”
While Osimhen is the team’s undisputed number nine, he is struggling for form at Napoli after missing three months of action and could even miss the match after suffering a head injury in Napoli’s game against Atalanta.
But with Maja having the qualities Rohr is looking for, he could replace the former Lille striker in either of the games.
This is not to say Onuachu or Moffi should not be called up because, after all, Ahmed Musa has been without a club for over three months while Samuel Kalu and Moses Simon are currently struggling at their clubs.
However, Maja has shown that he has the qualities to excel in Nigeria’s attack, and with him in such fine form, there’s no better time to hand him a second international call-up than now.