Has there been a bigger breakout star in Europe this season than Folarin Balogun?
Nigeria have coveted and missed out on England-eligible strikers in recent years, with the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Dominic Solanke and Tammy Abraham all opting for the Three Lions rather than committing their future to the Super Eagles.
As things stand, Folarin Balogun is in danger of becoming the next potential Nigeria hero turning out for the European heavyweights.
The 21-year-old has been one of the revelations of the European football season so far, having seemingly come from nowhere to challenge for the Ligue 1 Golden Boot.
Arsenal saw fit to allow him to leave on loan for Stade de Reims at the start of the campaign, with Mikel Arteta believing that Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah would provide enough firepower for the Gunners to achieve their aims.
He hasn’t been proved wrong…yet…but none of his forwards have scored as many as Balogun, who has enjoyed a remarkable rise to prominence in Ligue 1.
To date, the wonderkid has scored 15 goals in 25 league outings for the club of the Champagne region, adapting quickly to life in French football, while winning many admirers in the process.
There are now rumors of a summer switch to Newcastle United, who reportedly see the 21-year-old as a potential solution to the striking failings that have seen their Champions League push stall in recent weeks.
The Magpies will doubtless be wowed by Balogun’s current standing in the Ligue 1 goalscoring charts, where only three players—Kylian Mbappe, Wissam Ben Yedder and Jonathan David—are currently outscoring young Balogun.
While Newcastle may have designs on his club career, Nigeria must push to secure his international future.
Admittedly, the Super Eagles aren’t sure of quality striking options—Victor Osimhen alone is the envy of the rest of Africa—but a move for Balogun would be both a statement of intent and could secure the future of one of Europe’s brightest talents.
The double-header with Guinea-Bissau may come too soon for Nigeria to add Balogun to the fold, and Nigeria will have to content themselves with the likes of Taiwo Awoniyi, Terem Moffi, Paul Onuachu, David Okereke, Ademola Lookman and Cyriel Dessers in the interim.
However, the striker’s pace, ability to make runs and energetic pressing from the front make him a unique prospect among Nigeria’s other attacking options, and, with age on his side, he’d represent a valuable long-term option as the Super Eagles look to avoid some of the ignominies of recent years.
It would also be a statement recruit for the new-look NFF, allowing them to demonstrate that they mean business as they attempt to restore Nigeria’s continental reputation.
England as well as the United States lie in wait for Balogun, but Nigeria must make it their priority to secure the future of one of the true breakout stars of 22-23.