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Ovie Ejaria made his first appearance for Reading since making his season-long loan permanent, and he marked the occasion in the best style possible.
Ejaria’s last taste of football had come before Saturday in the 5-0 thumping of hapless Luton Town on last season’s final day, a full two months ago. For parts of the relatively brief off-season it had often appeared unclear if Reading had the means to meet the £ 3.5 million commitment negotiated with Liverpool in the summer of 2019.
Last season, no one completed more successful dribbles per game in the division than Ejaria’s 3.1, and unlike the much-acclaimed Said Benrahma who also managed to rank very high in lost possessions, his decision-making in possession was a lot more sensible (65% success rate to the Algerian’s 55%).
hIt is known that Ejaria has now dedicatedis international future to Nigeria having been a part of the youth set-up in England before. That puts him in the frame for an invitation ahead of October ‘s friendlies in Austria on the 9th and 13th respectively against Ivory Coast and Tunisia.
Considering the unavailability of Joe Aribo, who has quickly become influential since earning his first cap in September 2019, Ejaria’s ability to carry the ball in the same way and also arrive in the opposing penalty area would be welcome.
Depending on the discretion of the coach, he could reprise his role on the left of midfield at club level to provide the Super Eagles with an added layer of guile between the lines against deeper opposition, against whom the pace of the likes of Samuel Chukwueze, Samuel Kalu and Moses Simon might be less threatening. He can also ably deputize for Alex Iwobi, who presently appears to be out of favour at Everton, as the team’s most attacking central midfielder.
In many ways, he provides a lot more solutions than Eze, a player for whom the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) have not hidden their admiration. While there has been a significant amount of “will he or won’t he?” coverage around his international loyalties (he recently withdrew from the England Under-21 squad for unclear reasons, sparking yet more speculation), it would be deeply ironic if Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr were to find his side’s needs sated by the lesser-fancied Ejaria instead.