England manager Gareth Southgate is disturbed by reports that Nigeria have renewed their interest in Everton forward Ademola Lookman.
Lookman is one of the players Southgate is keeping close tabs on as he believes the talent could graduate to the senior team, and the 48-year-old says they will fight to keep the player.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr is looking for a player to provide the Super Eagles’ attack with the cutting edge, following the retirement of Chelsea star Victor Moses from the team, coupled with Odion Ighalo and Alex Iwobi’s poor form in recent times.
Rohr and the Nigeria Football Federation reportedly failed to convince 20-year-old London-born Lookman to switch his international allegiance to Nigeria and play for the Eagles at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Despite representing England at the Under-19 and Under-20 levels, the player is still eligible to represent Nigeria where his parents were born as has yet to be capped by the English senior team.
Lookman, who joined the Toffees from Charlton Athletic in a deal reportedly worth £11m last year, has only featured for Everton once this season after coming in as a substitute in their 1-1 draw with Huddersfield at Goodison Park on September 1.
The striker, who helped England win the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea, has endured a torrid run of form after he failed to force a move to Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, where he was on loan last season.
The winger, who was substituted by Aidy Boothroyd in the 2-1 defeat of Latvia in their UEFA European U21 Championship qualifier in Jelgava on Tuesday, is said to be disappointed.
Our correspondent learnt that the NFF has moved to capitalise on Lookman’s frustration by offering an opportunity to play for the Eagles.
But the Three Lions boss Southgate said they would do everything to stop the player from representing Nigeria.
“I know every country is quite aggressive in their recruiting and I know they have always had an interest in him, but he is playing and has been in our squads, the 20s, 21s,” the former Middlesbrough star told The Mirror on Thursday.
“So in terms of encouragement through game time, we are doing as much as we possibly can.”
England Under-21 team manager Boothroyd, who insisted he knew nothing about the player’s intention to switch his allegiance to Nigeria, said he won’t rule it out.
“He’s very talented but when there’s a lot of speculation, it can get inside a player’s head,” the young Three Lions manager was quoted by The Sun as saying on Thursday.
But spokesman for the NFF Ademola Olajire said he is not aware the federation is working to have Lookman in the Eagles.
“But it’s not impossible,” Olajire added in his reply to the text message from our correspondent on Thursday.
“If he’s eligible, and the coach finds him good enough there’s nothing wrong about it.”