Kenneth Omeruo: Peaking Ahead of AFCON

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Kenneth Omeruo

With less than two months to go, Nigerian national team Manager, Gernot Rohr, is hoping that some of the Super Eagles players would maintain their scintillating performance till summer when the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Egypt. Leganes of Spain defender, Kenneth Omeruo is one of such players the German-born tactician is hoping he keeps his form. Last weekend, the Chelsea loanee was voted the Man-of-the-Match against Celta Vigo and little wonder he was selected in La Liga team of the week

Kenneth Omeruo masterclass in his team’s scoreless draw at the Estadio Municipal de Butarque against Celta Vigo last Saturday has earned him a place in La Liga Santander Team of the Week.

Omeruo solidified the backline and was a major factor in the Los Pepineros picking a point. Little wonder the former Middlesbrough and Kasimpasa defender was voted Man of the Match in the tension soaked encounter.

Playing in a now familiar three-man back formation, the Chelsea loanee led the defence for the host alongside Unai Bustinza and Dimitrios Slovas as they went in search of their 10th clean sheet of the top tier season.

When the visitors thought they had taken the lead against the run of play, the impressive Omeruo was on hand to deny them as he made a last ditch goal line clearance to earn his side their first point in three outings.

The Nigerian played the full throttle and finished with a high rating of 8.0, making 10 clearances, winning six of his seven duels, making one interception and also completing 91 per cent of his passes.

He has made 25 league appearances for the Cucumber Growers this season.

“See my teammates, Team of the Week La Liga. Big deal for me, all God,” Omeruo posted on Instagram.

The Nigerian defender was at the heart of everything as this plucky Leganes side have now kept 10 lean sheers and it’s based on the rock-solid defence that the Omeruo is part of.

Omeruo has been described as one of the best centre backs in Spain, maybe also across Europe’s top Leagues.

Omeruo who is on loan from Chelsea has made four previous moves in search of first-team football and topsy turvy as his journey has been the Nigerian is showing great adaptability and the stats prove he is heading up.

The 25-year-old joined the Spanish side in August, his seventh loan move away from the English Premier League club Chelsea since he joined them in 2012.

“Right now I’m fulfilling my dream of playing in La Liga, it’s amazing and different. It was a frustrating start due to my work permit issue, but after playing in two big La Liga games I must say things are finally looking up,” Omeruo told BBC Sport.

“I’ve been playing away from England in Turkey for a while and every time I always craved for a visible league where people can watch me.

“Luckily, after the World Cup where I had two good games, I got more options and I chose La Liga where everyone can watch me, and so far it’s been a perfect decision for me.”

Omeruo, who is yet to play a competitive game for Chelsea where he has a deal until 2020, spent a second spell at Turkish side Kasımpasa last season.

A 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner with Nigeria, he has also been loaned to Dutch side ADO Den Haag, Middlesbrough in England for two seasons and another Turkish side Alanyaspor.

Back in 2017 he admitted he may have to leave Chelsea in his quest for first-team football on a regular basis.

He now concedes his dreams of playing in England’s top flight with the Blues could be over as he looks to continue in Spain and hopefully earn a permanent move to Leganes.

“Right now I’m fulfilling my dream of playing in La Liga, it’s amazing and different,” he added.

“Leganes have an option to sign me permanently and I would like to give everything to stay in the league.

“I’ve played in the English championship, I’ve gotten a feel of that but La Liga is very good. If I end up playing for Chelsea someday fine, because it is one of the biggest teams in the world and they have the highest fan base in Nigeria.

“I would love to play for them, even if it’s just a game, but right now I am very happy with my life here in Spain.”

Omeruo can play at centre-back or right-back and is regarded as one of the continent’s best young defenders.

Meanwhile, head coach of the Super Eagles, Rohr has expressed his delight over Omeruo’s recent form in the Spanish League.

“I am really impressed with his performances,” Rohr stated, adding, “playing against teams like Sevilla, Celta Vigo and he was able stay defensively focused and consistent shows his great quality as a defender.”

An obviously excited Rohr observed that Omeruo’s performance was a good development for the Eagles and also for his Spanish team as well. “We hope he continues in that manner and for me that gives a stiff competition in the first line of the Super Eagles.”

Meanwhile, Omeruo wants a permanent stay at Spanish La Liga side Leganes and has revealed that both his parent club as the modest Spanish outfit should agree before the end of the season.

Omeruo has delivered decent performances to help Mauricio Pellegrino’s men keep 10 clean sheets in 24 appearances.

And the defender has expressed his desire to remain with Estadio Municipal de Butarque outfit as he aims to stabilise his career.

“I want to stay in Spain but right now the club needs to pay or reach an agreement with Chelsea. I know they are working towards it and will reach a decision soon.  I just want to keep playing well.

“I’ve seen the importance of playing where Nigerians can watch,  they can see me every week and know how improved my game has been.

“I want to stay in Spain, maybe a bigger club. If not, the Leganes. I think this year is the year where I stay as I need a home,” he said.