In a lighthearted exchange, Ola Aina has taken a playful jab at Fikayo Tomori for his decision to stick with England rather than switch his international allegiance to Nigeria, despite Aina’s advice, Soccernet.ng reports.
The two footballers, brought up in England by Nigerian parents and honed their skills in Chelsea’s youth ranks before progressing to the senior team, have found themselves on different sides of the international divide.
Both Aina and Tomori represented England at various youth levels, with Aina even donning the jersey from U16 to U20 categories.
However, in 2017, Aina made a definitive commitment to Nigeria, a choice that led him to become a cornerstone of the Super Eagles squad. Aina made the team to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, where he contributed significantly to Nigeria clinching a bronze medal.
The twist in the tale lies in Tomori’s decision.
Though the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) extended an invitation for him to embrace his Nigerian heritage in 2019, Tomori opted to continue representing England.
Despite his triumph with the England U-20 team at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Tomori’s senior international career has been sporadic.
He secured an England national team call-up shortly after declining Nigeria’s offer. Yet, since then, he has earned just three international caps, a figure that appears inconsistent with his talent.
The perplexing part of the narrative is how Tomori’s impressive achievements with AC Milan seemed to have bypassed the England coaching staff.
Even after contributing to Milan’s league triumph, Tomori was overlooked for the 2022 FIFA World Cup squad, a decision that surprised Aina.
“At first, I wanted to say maybe it is because he is playing out of England, but then it’s not like he is out of England and he is playing for Torino or somewhere worse than Torino,” Aina candidly remarked during an interview with the TBG podcast.
Aina’s bemusement was palpable as he continued, “He is playing for AC Milan, you know. That’s no joke, they even won the league and made it to the Champions League final, and even if they haven’t done that, the team, the history itself, it talks for itself.”
Aina expressed his confusion over Tomori’s snub by England, especially considering that the latter’s form during Milan’s triumphant Scudetto-winning campaign was arguably better than some of his English counterparts.
The ribbing did not stop there. Aina revealed that he had indulged in some light-hearted teasing of Tomori in private, insinuating that the Nigerian setup might have offered a more welcoming platform.
Aina recounted his words to Tomori, “That England thing, honestly, it’s easy for me to say it to him; sometimes I joke with him like I told you about the Naija thing (switching to Nigeria).
“It’s easy for me to say that to him because I wasn’t in the position where I could possibly get an England debut. I am just talking from my own experience.”
Parting ways with Torino this summer, Aina has joined Nottingham Forest on a free transfer, positioning himself for the upcoming 2023/24 Premier League season.