What might have been if the Real Madrid star had represented Nigeria?
Nigerians are a proud people, so it’ll be necessary to get this out of the way from the get-go: there is absolutely no regret over anyone who has ever shunned the Super Eagles.
A horde of players of varying levels of talent have opted to represent other nations at the West African nation’s expense, and the list is lengthy.
England have been the prime beneficiaries, with Dele Alli’s snub in the mid-2010s arguably the one that hurt the most at the time.
That was until Bukayo Saka decided to represent the Three Lions, with the Arsenal youngster officially invited on October 1 2021, coincidentally the day of the nation’s independence.
Recalling the names of everyone who took the same decision may be a fool’s errand, but we’ll try regardless: John Fashanu — who’s since told GOAL this wasn’t the case — Gabriel Agbonlahor and John Salako have all featured for the British nation in the past, while Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori both chose a country without an international trophy of any kind since 1966.
Angelo Ogbonna and Stefano Okaka both opted for Italy, Dennis Aogo represented Germany before injury cut short his career and Emmanuel Adebayor led Togo to the World Cup, despite his Nigerian roots.
Be that as it may, none of the aforementioned undoubtedly talent comparable with Real Madrid’s David Alaba.
Born to an Austrian mother and Nigerian father, the departing Bayern Munich player’s decision wasn’t drawn out in any way; he was unequivocal in his decision to represent the European nation, rather than Nigeria in the 2010s.
The 10-time Bundesliga winner was hugely successful in his time playing for Germany’s greatest side and played a vital role in helping the hallowed Bavarians claim trebles in 2013 and 2020, matching a feat previously held by Barcelona.
In a sense, his versatility and intelligence to thrive in several positions sometimes led to misunderstandings with his coaches but he’s widely regarded as one of the best left-backs of his generation.
His expertise in that position could have freed Nigerians from the frustrating years of pulling their hair out regarding Elderson Echiejile and the fleeting Brian Idowu spell under Gernot Rohr in the late 2010s.
Jamilu Collins offered little excitement in that position and Zaidu Sanusi is yet to truly convince.
The West African nation seek an answer to solve a left-back crisis that has plagued the nation since Taye Taiwo’s halcyon days.
Indeed, Alaba may have played as the country ended nearly two decades of hurt to finally claim the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013 to add to his plethora of honours.
Perhaps, maybe another African title might have followed, rather than what really transpired: missing out on two successive Afcons in 2015 and 2017, thus featuring in one tournament in four before making the 2019 showpiece in Egypt.
For a nation short on world class talent — Vincent Enyeama was arguably the only Super Eagle close to even being included in the conversation — someone of Alaba’s talent and intelligence would have elevated the Nigeria side considerably.
Most importantly, his success with Bayern will surely have enhanced Nigeria’s prospects of finally producing another African Footballer of the Year.
Nobody from the three-time African nation has reigned supreme since Nwankwo Kanu’s success in 1999 and the ongoing drought means the nation has lacked a top three representative since 2014.
Interestingly, before Mikel John Obi and Enyeama finishing second and third in 2013 and 2014 respectively, there was an eight-year wait after Jay-Jay Okocha’s third-place finish in 2004 to produce anyone worthy of consideration among Africa’s top stars.
Of course, we’ll never know how events will have panned out.
Regardless, do Nigerians ever wonder what might have been had the Real Madrid star chosen the Super Eagles over Das Team?