Tuesday, August 9

Playing for Nigeria is a big dream – Ademola Lookman

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London born winger Ademola says taking the leap to play for Nigeria will not be the first time he would be taking big decisions in his career.

“I’ve always been conscious of what must be done and don’t kid myself into staying put when I have to leap. I call it a leap of faith.”

Though, the Leicester player had represented England from Under 19 to Under 21 and was a key part of the team which won the Under 20 World Cup in 2017, he dramatically committed his future to the Nigeria Super Eagles last week.

The 24-year-old said he took the decision to switch his allegiance to fatherland deliberately.

Lookman made reference to 2018, when he decided to move to Germany instead of going to Derby Country where Sam Allardyce, then in charge of Everton wanted him to go.

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Lookman describes the decision to go to RB Leipzig as his first ‘leap of faith.’

“In January 2018 I rejected a loan move to Derby in favour of one to Germany. I just wanted to follow my heart,” he explained.

That move proved right as he made an instant hit scoring the winner on his debut against Borussia Monchengladbach.

‘Just a leap of faith,’ says Lookman. ‘I didn’t come here to prove him (Allardyce) wrong. I came here for myself. I knew I’d made the right decision. I always back myself. I know what I’m capable of doing.

‘Whether it was in England, Germany, and Spain or wherever, it’s not a problem for me. Football’s football, right?’

That goal made him the first Englishman to score in the Bundesliga since Owen Hargreaves in 2005 and he ended the loan spell with five goals and four assists in 11 appearances.

Lookman

was to return to Leipzig a second time in 2019, this time around permanently.

‘It’s different the second time,’ says Lookman. ‘It’s a permanent move, This is my home. This is where I’ve come to do good things and help the team. First time around was a leap of faith but the second time it’s more like go time. So, I’m not afraid to make big decisions.’

‘Opportunity, that’s what it is,’ says Lookman. ‘People will go anywhere if there’s opportunity. Everyone’s journey is different. Ultimately everyone’s got to make a decision and hopefully it’s the right one.’

So, when it was time for him to make another big decision about his international future, he knew what he want and go for it.

“It’s been on my mind for years that I have to make this decision. I consulted and thought about it and took the decision on full consciousness.

He added that he would like to help Nigeria qualify for the World Cup and play at the Mundial someday with Nigeria.

‘It’s a competition I’d like to play in, for sure. That’s definitely something I need to address. I’m open and it’s good to have different opportunities. It’s a serious decision. International football is a big thing if you want to keep progressing, which I do.’

LEICESTER

Lookman is also happy for the opportunity to link up with two Super Eagles players in Leicester. “They are great guys (Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho). They are helping me to settle down.”

Though, he did not say if the Nigerian duo helped hi settle for the Super Eagles, he, however, lauded Manager Brendan Rodgers for believing in him.

Rodgers had insisted Lookman will ‘flourish’ with the Foxes, when he signed a season-long loan from German side RB Leipzig with a view to a permanent switch.

Doing a deal for Lookman on the final day of the transfer window saw Rodgers sign a player he has long admired and the Foxes boss hopes he can finally ‘find a home’ at the King Power Stadium.

‘I’m really excited about working with Ade, he’s a top talent,’ said Rodgers. ‘I wanted to take him to Celtic when he was at Charlton. I was aware of him when he was 15.

Read Also: ADEMOLA LOOKMAN: I’m excited to play for Leicester City

‘He has all the tools, he has a great dribbling ability, how he views the game, he has an eye for a goal. My hope is that this environment will give him a chance to flourish. Hopefully he can find a home here. I have no doubt the supporters will be excited by him.

‘He can play in a number of positions. His preferred position is off the left side but he can play on the inside as well and on the right.

“He’s very balanced. He’s got two good feet. You wouldn’t know which his strongest foot is; he can strike the ball very well off both sides.”

So far Lookman has been impressive for Leicester but he believes he can still do better.

He has made five appearances in September. From those five appearances, he made two starts which Rodgers has put this down to building up his fitness.

His debut was a brief cameo against Manchester City during the 1-0 loss and he took the position of covering for Harvey Barnes on the left-wing. His next Premier League appearance was during the tough 2-1 loss at Brighton, but this is when fans got to see a first real glimpse at what Lookman can offer.

lookman in action

Lookman was left unmarked as he stooped low to provide a diving header into the Brighton net for what he, and many others, believed to be his first goal for the club. Unfortunately, Harvey Barnes was ruled to be blocking Brighton’s goalkeeper Sanchez and, as such, the goal was ruled out. Whilst the final result left a bitter taste in the mouth for many a fan, it at least gave a glimpse at what Lookman can do. Following that encouraging performance, Lookman then made his first start for Leicester in their opening Carabao Cup game to Millwall. The game itself was relatively stale, but Lookman – who started as a centre-forward – opened the scoring, latching onto the rebound of Iheanacho’s long-range shot.

The ball came to Lookman who made no mistake, volleying into an open net to open his account for Leicester City. It may look an easy finish, but there are countless examples of players skying over that type of chance. It has prevented any narrative of Lookman having a duck on his shoulder; hopefully this is the first goal of many.

From that, Brendan Rodgers saw enough to hand Lookman his first Premier League start against Burnley, and whilst Lookman didn’t score or assist during the game, his running really excited fans. He started on the right of midfield and assisted the progress of the ball in the match until he was substituted on the 69th minute.

Growing up in Wandsworth, Lookman recalled the street matches at Waterloo club in London, where he played until the age of 16 and pitches ‘full of leaves, with a slope and potholes’. He thanks his ‘mentors’ Des and Felix for their faith because they never gave up hope.

‘Even at times when I thought I couldn’t do it,’ says Lookman. ‘Sometimes I’d think maybe it won’t work out for me. And they’d quickly be like, “what are you talking about? God’s given you this talent for a reason; don’t ever give up on it”.’

He didn’t give up. He seized his chance when it came and has become a £20m footballer under the instruction of Julian Nagelsmann, one of the most in-demand young coaches in Europe.

Lookman enjoys biographies and documentaries about the lives of famous people. He studies speeches by the actor Denzel Washington reads when times permits.

He’s close to his family, especially, his mother, and enjoys African delicacy.

‘When I went to Germany I was eating things I didn’t know I would have eaten. I missed my mum’s cooking but whenever she comes around, she would bring the goods. You know, African food, all types of food.’

Now that he has joined the Nigeria train, Lookman will come back home more regularly to indulge in the local dishes.

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