Nigeria are gunning for a fourth Africa Cup of Nations crown in Cameroon. And so far, Torino star Ola Aina has played a significant role in helping Nigeria reach the knockout stages.
Ola Aina was outstanding in Nigeria’s first two games against Egypt and Sudan. His solid defending and fast-paced runs always left opponents for dead.
Although he caused a penalty in the game against Sudan, his impact on the side can not be overemphasised.
Aina was born in England to Nigerian parents. The 25-year-old had a pretty rocky childhood, as his parents struggled to meet up with their financial needs.
Nevertheless, Aina began his football journey at Stamford Bridge before he turned eleven. However, in an interview with Aljazeera, his father revealed that Aina was supposed to sign for Tottenham Hotspur because he was a big fan of the club.
“He was meant to sign for Tottenham,” his father told Aljazeera.
“They had him over for about three weeks, then on the day he was supposed to sign, they kept acting funny. As a big Spurs fan, it was heartbreaking.
Luckily, Chelsea officials were still calling us daily, so we decided, ‘Why not go where you are wanted?'”
The Torino man steadily rose through the youth ranks at Chelsea, and he finally made his senior debut for the Blues in August 2016.
However, that was just one of the six appearances that the Nigerian star made for the European champions. Aina had loan stints at Hull City and Torino before penning a four-year deal with the Italian side in 2023.
Whilst at Torino, he left for a season-long loan at Fulham in 2020, but he returned to Torino after the Lily whites got relegated that same season.
Despite playing for the England youth teams, the 25-year-old opted to play for the Super Eagles in 2017.
He made his debut for the National team under former coach Gernot Rohr, and since then, he has made twenty more appearances for the three-time African champions.
The London-born defender is currently having the best period of his international career. He has shone like a million stars under coach Augustine Eguavoen at the AFCON.
His displays have been vital in helping the Super Eagles secure a spot in the knockout rounds of the AFCON, and he will hope that Nigeria go on to claim the title after the disappointment of 2019.
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