AFCON 2021: Nigeria Finally Finds A ‘Jay Jay Okocha’

Jay Jay Okocha is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders to ever play for the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

While there have been several players who have played in this unique role for the Eagles, Okocha stands out for his unique ability to entertain and create for his teams.

Since he retired from international football 20 years ago, several players have tried to fill the void he left behind with little or no success. They include John Obi Mikel, Rabiu Ibrahim, Nosa Igiebor, and so on.

Haruna, who is a CAF B licensed coach, thinks Nigeria may have found a replacement.

“For Nigerians, the simple yardstick for measuring a good number 10 remains Jay Jay Okocha.

“But football has evolved, the days where the creativity of a team solely or largely depends on one magician is fast becoming a thing of the past because teams now know how to limit the influence of the magicians.

“For the number 10s to be effective they most times need time and space on the ball.

“But the modern game is now being played at a faster pace, with time and space largely limited. This explains why the position is gradually being phased out in the modern game,” the CAF B coach added.

“These days, most players with this sort of quality are now mostly deployed as defensive midfielders.

“They now play in this new role to help their teams play out from the back comfortably, playing largely in their own half of the pitch, where they can enjoy relative time and space on the ball.”

Haruna, who was part of the Golden Eaglets’ crew which won the WAFU 17 championship in 2018, added that it is not enough for the number 10s to provide assists, they also need to score goals.

“The modern number 10 apart from being creative is also expected to weigh in with a considerable number of goals.

“Nowadays, it is not enough to give the assists, you are also expected to be in a position where you could be assisted.

Nigeria’s Kevin De Bruyne

“A look at the current set of Super Eagles players will show you that Joe Aribo fits that description of a modern-day number 10.

He plays simple during build-ups but knows when to commit opposing players when in the opponent’s vital area.

“He has the athleticism of an African, armed with football basic tutorials from Europe.

“He shares a similar playing style with Kevin De Bruyne. Just like the Belgian, he can come in from the wings, behind the strikers or as a creative deep-lying midfielder.

“Though the latter is of better quality due to some essentials he has added to his game (For example, Kelvin is a dead ball specialist while Aribo is not) but the Manchester City star is a perfect example of what Aribo should aspire to be like.

“Aribo has scored six goals and provided three assists for Rangers in 13 league games this season. Though in several positions, has excelled mostly when tucked in the side of a combative defensive midfielder, mostly Adjei Kamara at Rangers.

Aribo fits perfectly into Eguavoen’s playing style.

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