Nigeria would love Bukayo Saka to play for the Super Eagles, but refuse to chase him

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Young, talented, able to slot into multiple positions on the pitch, Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka is the perfect example of the foreign-born player of Nigerian origins that the Super Eagles need.

But in what has become a change in approach, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) says it will be up to the player -- and others with dual nationality who are eligible to represent Nigeria -- to decide whether to represent the country.

NFF President Amaju Pinnick said in an Instagram Live chat with the federation's official channel, that players would not be begged to represent Nigeria.

"There are many players that play like Bukayo Saka in Nigeria. We don't want to go begging any player," Pinnick said.

Pinnick's statement is indicative of the NFF's new strategy, following criticism of their methods of approaching dual nationals and elevating them over home-grown players.

An NFF source told ESPN that the new policy is simple: Talented dual nationals who have the required quality would be informed that they are welcome to play for Nigeria if they so choose.

But after that initial approach, the choice of representing Nigeria will be down to them. And the NFF will only engage again if the player reaches out, especially those -- like England-born Saka -- who have already represented one country at junior level and are looking to switch.

The source added: "The Super Eagles is a very prestigious brand and we need to keep it that way. Just because a player is born or raised abroad does not mean they should automatically be invited.

"We will monitor them, and those who are good enough and fit into the areas that the team needs will be approached, but after that, it all be up to them to come back to us if they are interested.

"If they do, we all work with them through the process of change of nationality. If they don't, we will wish them well."

Saka is one such player who ticks every single box. Over and above his quality and versatility, the teen also fits perfectly into a position of need for the Super Eagles, at left back.

In his four years and change as Super Eagles coach, the left-back position is one that Gernot Rohr has struggled to fill. Elderson Echiejile, Bryan Idowu, and lately Jamilu Collins have all had shots at being the regular occupants of the position.

So far, Collins is the only one who has gained some measure of the German's trust, with Ola Aina filling in when needed. However, sources with the team have told ESPN that the coach continues to explore options.

And this is where Saka would fit in. Not only has he shown great defensive ability in his breakout season with Arsenal, the 18-year-old has also shown offensive capabilities, with four goals and 18 assists.

Nigeria team sources told ESPN that Saka has been approached, and it is now up to him to decide. It is a decision that the youngster is currently wrestling with.

"It's a tough choice," Saka told SkySports. "I'm happy to have represented England at youth level but I'm also proud of my Nigerian heritage from my parents.

"We haven't been picked by any team so it's about staying humble and when the time comes we'll make the decision."

Considering the quality he could bring to the side, could it be a good idea for Rohr to hand him a call up in order to speed up that decision process?

Former West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City forward Peter Odemwingie, who was born in Uzbekistan but chose to represent Nigeria, says the NFF are on the right track.

"I'm a believer that anything forced or manipulated in life never ends up good," Odemwingie told ESPN.

"The choice must come from those players. As they said, the door is open, but it has to come from their hearts and it has to be full commitment without looking back.

"If he says hundred percent, I'm ready, I want to play for Nigeria, even if I'm in Real Madrid and World Player of the Year. If he says that himself, then you know, you can cap him now."

Odemwingie pointed to his own experience and says players who decide to play for Nigeria must feel a genuine connection to the country.

"It depends on how the person feels," he said.

"It has to be a decision made happily. For me, my dad had no other words than it's Nigeria and luckily for him, my mom also loves Nigeria. It depends on the relationship you have with your parents, how connected you are, have you been visiting?

"Growing up, I had six years I spent as a kid in Nigeria, I watched a lot of our games on tapes. So, I had already built a connection and a bond to our national team, watching the Japan under 17 World Cup, watching the DVDs of Olympics 96, France 98, how we celebrated.

"All those things they build up inside of you, and you will want to be part of that. When you celebrate those moments, even if it means going back watching videos, you kind of feel like you want to be part of that, or try to bring that kind of happiness to the nation, then it's an easier decision.

"Obviously, some Nigerian boys will choose differently, like Tammy Abraham. I don't think it has anything to do with lack of interest for his roots or his Nigerian background. You have to respect everybody's choice.

"But I will advise guys like that to play for Nigeria."

If he makes the decision to play for Nigeria, Saka could be a game-changing addition to the team. But the NFF will not be pulling out the stops to get him, and that, it would appear, is the right strategy.