Nigerian forward Nathan Tella has credited Bayer Leverkusen head coach Xabi Alonso and club teammate Adam Hložek after scoring his first goal for the Bundesliga side, Soccernet.ng reports.
Tella expressed relief and delight after he scored his first-ever goal for Bayer Leverkusen in their 2-1 victory over Molde FK on Thursday night during matchday two of the Europa League.
The 24-year-old winger has been grappling with a challenging start to his career at the German Bundesliga side after sealing a €23.3 million transfer from Southampton – the club’s most expensive summer signing.
Having missed Bayer Leverkusen’s entire pre-season preparations, Tella has struggled to secure a spot in the starting lineup, with only four appearances to his name, two of which saw him coming off the bench.
But Tella, who netted 19 goals across all competitions for Burnley last season, finally got off the mark for Bayer Leverkusen as he doubled the team’s lead in the 18th minute at Molde FK, driving a low shot into the far corner following a precise through ball from Adam Hložek.
Speaking to Bayer Leverkusen’s official website, the Arsenal academy product has praised coach Alonso and Hložek for their help.
“Obviously, it’s a great feeling. More importantly, we got the win. I am really happy on an individual note to get my first goal,” Tella said.
“It has been a tough start to my time here, but the manager assured me that I will get a run of games and I will get the confidence, and today was a good step for me.
“I am a forward; I always want to be involved in goals, whether scoring or assisting. I had a chance in the last Europa League game, and I didn’t take it.
“I felt that today if I had the opportunity, I wanted to take it, and thankfully, Adam played a great pass; he did all the hard work for me, and I was able to just finish, so thank you to Adam.”
Tella’s desire to play for the Super Eagles
While Tella’s club career is gaining momentum, his international ambitions remain on hold even as he has revealed his desire to represent the Super Eagles of Nigeria despite his eligibility for England.
Born and raised in England, Tella initially honed his skills at the Arsenal Academy before moving to Southampton in 2020.
However, his stellar loan stint at Burnley last season, where he amassed 19 goals and five assists in 45 appearances, catapulted him into the spotlight.
Although eligible for England and Nigeria, Tella has yet to feature for either national team.
In a recent interview, he reaffirmed his desire to don the green and white of Nigeria, saying,
“I’ve always said for the last three or four years that Nigeria is a big part of my life – even though I’ve been an ‘England boy’ from London all my life.”
“If I got the chance to play for Nigeria, I would be more than happy and accept it. You’re not just nominated like that.
“You have to work for it and earn it. I want to prove myself here if I get the chance to play. I want to develop further, help the team and the club – if a call comes for an international call-up, that would be a bonus.”
However, Tella will need to remain patient in his quest for an international call-up.
The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) recently unveiled a 25-player roster for upcoming friendly matches against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique in preparation for the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
While Tella’s name was not on the roster, his Bayer Leverkusen teammate, Victor Boniface, earned a spot as Nigeria put finishing touches to their AFCON preparation.