The Nigerian Olympic Under-23 team is not yet certain that they will be able to enjoy the talents of striker Kelechi Iheanacho, with club Manchester City not yet giving their blessing for the player to compete at Rio 2016.
The Dream Team VI, as the Nigerian Olympic team is known, is yet to receive a reply from the English Premier League team concerning Iheanacho’s release to form part of Samson Siasia squad.
This means that his availability is in question, as he would not to be with the team ahead of the Olympic Men’s Football Tournament in August, yet clubs are not obliged to release players to take part in the competition, unlike the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Timing is the problem in this particular situation, as the European club season begins in August, and players at the Olympics would be forced to miss major portions of pre-season, as well as the start of the new campaign in some cases.
The issue for Iheanacho is also the arrival of new Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola. Not being available for most of pre-season training would inevitably put him at a disadvantage for selection when he returns from Rio.
This fact could be worrying for the Nigerian starlet, who has done well to begin making a name for himself with the Citizens.
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A total of 14 goals came courtesy of the 19-year-old in his debut season for the blue half of Manchester, and he will be hoping to build on that excellent form in 2016-17.
According to the DailyPost, the player recently revealed his ambitions to be at the Olympics, and the confidence he has in his side earning a gold medal in Rio.
Arsenal have given Alex Iwobi permission to take part in the 2016 Olympics, after coach Arsene Wenger held talks with Siasia, but the youngster’s Man City counterpart may not end up featuring in Brazil if the club stands in his way.
According to his national team coach, however, the Nigerian authorities are doing all they can to make sure Iheanacho is included in the Dream Team VI.
“The Nigeria Football Federation [NFF] has written several letters to them wanting to know when the player would be released for the games in Brazil but as I speak with you the club has not replied,” Siasia revealed to the Manchester Evening News.
“So for now I cannot confidently tell you that Iheanacho would be available for the Olympics, although we are not relenting on the issue as the NFF is fighting tooth and nail to ensure we have our best players for the Olympics,” he added.
Siasia mentioned the player’s hopes of featuring at Rio 2016, but added that he could not yet confirm his availability.
“Kelechi also told me he is anxious to play in the Olympics and I am sure with much pressure the boy would be released eventually. But for now I cannot tell you he will be in the Olympics,” he admitted.
The Dream Team VI have been drawn in Group B, alongside Sweden, Colombia and Japan.
Nigeria, South Africa and Algeria are the three African teams that will travel to Rio to represent Africa in the men’s Olympic football tournament.