Watford could face the prospect of starting next season without Odion Ighalo… not because he will be sold but because he could be at the Rio Olympics with Nigeria.
The Nigeria coach Samson Siasia has revealed he is looking to pick Watford’s top-scorer as one of three over-age players for the 16-team tournament between August 3 and August 20. The Premier League season starts on Saturday, August 13. Isaac Success, the 20-year-old Granada forward who Watford have signed ahead of next season, is guaranteed to be called up by Nigeria for the under-23 tournament.
“It is obvious that we will consider Odion because he is the only Super Eagles player playing and scoring goals in the Premier League,” Siasia told the local Sun newspaper. “Everybody is looking at him and he is a good boy, gentle and disciplined. I can tell you that if he is in good shape when we want to go for the tournament, he will of course be one of the players we want to pick. We need somebody like him to score for us.”
Fifa demanded Premier League clubs released their U23 players for the last Olympics, in London. In 2008, Barcelona won an appeal against the inclusion of Lionel Messi in Argentina’s squad with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Messi, however, ended up playing and he won gold with Argentina. The rule around over-age players is less clear.
Watford’s preparations for the Premier League game with Manchester United in October were not ideal as Ighalo only arrived back from international duty the day before the game. There was also the threat of possible Fifa sanction for Watford over Allan Nyom in November. Nyom was at the centre of a dispute with Cameroon after he, they said, refused to travel to Niger from Paris with the squad for back-to-back World Cup qualifiers. It is said that Nyom opted against travelling because his club, who pay his wages, claim they had not received, in writing, confirmation he had been called for international duty.
Quique Sanchez Flores, who played for Spain at the 1990 World Cup, is sympathetic to his players’ dreams of playing for their country. He has vowed, once Watford are safe, to make sure any players bound for Euro 2016 get plenty of game time between now and the end of the season. However, the head coach sets plenty of stall on pre-season – just ask Steven Berghuis, Obbi Oulare, Victor Ibarbo, Alessandro Diamanti and Adlene Guedioura who all missed the trip to Germany – and will be loath to have his plans to evolve this team during the summer disrupted by the absence of his key striker. There is, of course, the chance Ighalo will be sold in the summer but we wrote last week how the chances of him remaining at Vicarage Road are high. Click HERE to read the story.