The Super Eagles’ captain has asked his Chelsea team-mate to consider departing England Under-20s to represent instead the country of his parents’ birth
John Obi Mikel has called upon Ola Aina to switch allegence from England to Nigeria after he impressed in pre-season and made his Chelsea debut against Bristol Rovers.
The 19-year-old has been named on the bench many times this term after signing a new deal with his club in the summer, and currently plays his international football in the England youth ranks.
The young full-back was born in London to Nigerian parents and Mikel admits that he rates his team-mate so highly that he would love to line up alongside him in the green and white of Nigeria.
“I keep asking him: ‘When are you going to come and play for Nigeria?’ and he jokes: ‘Whenever you come and invite me I will play!” Mikel told Goal. “I think it is something that we would have to discuss.
“If he wants to play, we would have to speak to the federation and make sure that he really wants to play for Nigeria. If he is ready, we can talk about, but in the few times we have talked about it, he hasn’t given me a very positive, decisive answer to take back to the FA.
“I need a positive answer for me to take the case forward to the FA. We will see what happens.”
Aina’s performances stood out to the midfielder during Chelsea’s pre-season tour of Austria and the United States, where the youngster made three starts and several substitute appearances to force his way into manager Antonio Conte’s plans.
“Aina is a very, very good player,” he added. “He has improved quite a lot after playing in a few friendly games and he played really, really well. I was quite impressed by his performances and it is only a matter of time before these kids break into the first team.”
The 29-year-old Mikel is expected to start against Zambia as Nigeria attempt to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after missing out on the African Cup of Nations, which will be played out this winter.