Tammy Abraham has attracted attention as one of Chelsea's shining prospects, having dazzled at youth level before going on loan to Bristol City last term where he banged in 26 goals to finish as the Championship outfit’s top scorer and best player.
Now on another loan spell - this time at Swansea City - Abraham has shown his quality in South Wales, finding the back of the net three times in all competitions, including a Premier League strike against Watford last weekend.
Efforts to join the Super Eagles have been led by Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick, but the way he went about it left the country in a really embarrassing situation, and while Gernot Rohr's side prepare for their World Cup qualifier against Zambia, Abraham will be representing England's U-21s against Scotland next Friday.
The former Delta State FA chief made a bold statement that the 19-year old would choose Nigeria due to his close ties with his father.
“Tammy is like my son," he began. "His father and I grew up in the same neighbourhood. So when they talk about him, I just laugh because I know what to do.”
Pinnick met with the Abrahams in London last week and declared that Tammy had agreed to represent the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Champions.
“I had a very honest and productive discussion with Tammy and his father last week. It’s been a long process but I can tell you authoritatively that he has agreed to play for Nigeria and not England.”
Those words were taken seriously back home, with passionate fans looking forward to the newest addition to the Super Eagles frontline. In a big twist, however, the Camberwell-born player would come out later to say he is still open to representing England.
“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England...I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national-team allegiance...any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”
This was a totally disappointing and embarrassing act on the path of Pinnick. Using the connection he has to Abraham’s father is no guarantee of the direction he takes...and the NFF should not have made this assumption.
What if Tammy’s heart lies with England?
Perhaps Nigeria fans feel that it's in Abraham's interest to follow the pathway of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong, who rejected a future with a European national side to represent the Super Eagles, rather than Gabby Agbonlahor or John Fashanu, who ignored the appeals of the West African giants in order to pursue (ultimately unfulfilling) internaitonal careers with England.
However, no supporters know the motivations and the loyalties that drive Abraham. The player owns his footballing future and lives by it, and must not be coerced by external factors.
Ola Aina is another Chelsea rising star who is thriving on loan at Hull City. The 20-year-old made it known that his heart was with Nigeria and not England, claiming his parents didn’t influence him, but decided to go for whatever he chose.
That is how it should be for Tammy Abraham too.
The publicity that Pinnick put into announcing Abraham’s switch was also surprising.
Did the NFF really need to go showing pictures he’s met with Tammy’s family before he had the player's complete commitment? Such could be done privately as was the case with Aina and even those of Balogun, Troost-Ekong or Carl Ikeme.
While Pinnick has done much good work in terms of player recruitment - with Alex Iwobi a considerable coup for the Eagles - his social media posturing on Abraham, before a deal had been sealed, could prove particularly damaging.
Pinnick’s move for Abraham has left egg on his face and dented the standing of the NFF.
How he went about stating something that wasn’t 100% certain, for the kind of position he holds, is bizarre and outright embarrassing both for him personally and for the federation.
This event - such a high-profile blunder - has the capacity to taint Nigeria’s football image for any potential future call-ups because the entire world is following.
Will the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Josh Onomah, Sheyi Ojo, Dominic Solanke and Ademola Lookman be deterred from considering an international future with Nigeria after seeing the muddled public face of the NFF?
Pinnick needs to realise the damage such a PR catastrophe has, and completely avoid such blunders in the future.