The managerial career of Arsene Wenger is perhaps most notable for his transformative effect on players, and the latest beneficiary of the Frenchman’s Midas touch is Nigerian sensation, Alex Iwobi.
His rise from the relatively unknown into one of the stars of the Premier League is astonishing, and after his starring role in last weekend’s demolition of London rivals Chelsea,it’s been revealed that Wenger wasn’t pleased the youngster decided to play for his fatherland, Nigeria.
Born in the UK, Iwobi represented England at youth level before opting to play for Nigeria at senior level after the prodding of his famous uncle, Jay Jay Okocha and former Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh.
“He should be playing for England,” Wenger said in January.
For a while though, it looked like Iwobi would join a long list of Nigerians to represent their country of birth, England.
He made seven appearances for England’s under-16s, three for the under-17s and one at under-18 level and, by all accounts, was happily embedded in the set-up. Only, the invitations stopped.
“He played for the England youth teams for a while but when it came to the under-19s, they didn’t pick him,” Wenger added.
Wenger, hardly a fan of the international schedule, blocked Iwobi from representing Nigeria at the Rio Olympics. He has always frowned at the January timing of the Africa Cup Of Nations, which entails losing key players during the business end of the season.
Nigeria, however failed to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, which means the 20 year old silky forward won’t be leaving the Emirates in January.
The player himself has said he would have “loved” to play for England, but it appears there’s a bigger calling ahead of him that not even Wenger, and the chaos back home, could prevent.