Adepoju: Inviting young players following Messi or Okocha put them under pressure

The former Nigerian international has called on fans and the media to allow rising stars to make their own names, instead of comparing them to legends

Mutiu Adepoju expressed his dissatisfaction with the way the young players are under pressure calling them the next Lionel Messi or Jay-Jay Okocha.

Rabiu Ibrahim, Kelechi Nwakali, Joel Obi and Alex Iwobi were praised as players who could follow Okocha’s track.

Napoli center-forward has also recently been named the successor to former Nigerian international and top scorer Rashidi Yekini.

Adepoju believes that such praises divert the development of young players because they do not reach their potential in the end.

“I believe that inviting young players from youth teams like the next Messi or Jay-Jay Okocha is unfair and unnecessary,” Adepoju told BBC Sport Africa.

“Indulging in this comparison sets them up for failure because the weight of expectations will definitely mentally affect these players.

“That is the main reason why some players refused to work hard and be their own, because they are easily carried away by what the press wrote about them.

“We’ve seen over the past decade that we have talented players across the field who can get our team to beat again

“Nigeria continues to dominate youth events and there are positive signs of better days to come. We just need to nurture these players properly and remove hype and noise.

“But if these players are allowed to play their own game and shine, they can be a success at both club and national level.

“Victor Agali was widely considered the next Rashidi Yekini, but he fought extremely hard to establish himself and sometimes people expected too much from him.

“He’s an example of someone who saw the burden of that label, but worked hard to establish his name.”

Okocha had a similar opinion in the past when he discovered that the Super Eagles needed a creative midfielder, but the pressure current players struggle with comparing them to the 1994 African Cup of Nations team limited them to reaching their potential.

“What the Eagles need now are natural midfielders who can create chances and change the course of the game,” Okocha told Brila FM.

“We need midfielders who can run on defenders and pick their teammates with good passes,” Okocha said during a radio program.

“We have good midfielders, but we are not at that level at the moment. Some of them are simply scared, and the fact that they are being compared to the Eagles in 1994 brings them a little pressure. “