NIGERIA’S hopes of getting Arsenal fullback Bukayo Saka to commit to the Super Eagles increased this week after he was left out of the latest England squad published by Gareth Southgate to prosecute next month’s Uefa Nations League matches against Iceland and Denmark.
On September 5, England are away to Iceland and three days later host Denmark in Copenhagen and Mr Southgate has called up 24 players for the games. He handed maiden senior call-ups to three players including Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood, Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips but there is no place for Saka amid speculation that he was in contention to earn his first invitation to the Three Lions.
Saka, 18, who came through the youth ranks with the Hale End academy, has forced his way into the Arsenal team this 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.
At the 2018 European U17 Championship for instance, Saka started all five matches for England as the team reached the semi-finals. Although he is yet to make a final decision on his senior international career, Saka recently revealed that he has previously been to Nigeria when he was much younger, so will not experience a culture shock if he suits up for the Super Eagles.
Saka has been omitted despite the fact that there is no recognised left-back in the Three Lions squad, with Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw not available for selection due to injury while Danny Rose has been snubbed as a result of a loss of form. Mr Southgate explained that Saka was not called up because he is more of an attack-minded player than a defender.
He added: “He’s obviously with the Under-21s this time and I feel he’s more of an attacking player. I know he’s played at left-back and he’s given good contributions there in an attacking sense certainly.
“At the moment left wing-back, left side higher up the pitch, I know he’s played in midfield and on the right as well but that they would be his better positions. It is still early for him but he’s a player we like and we’re monitoring very closely.”