The Watford starlet, Tom Dele-Bashiru has joined the Nigeria Under-23 team in Cairo, Egypt. The 19-year-old midfielder secured a move to Watford on a six-year deal after his contract with Manchester City expired in June 2019.
Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles will kick start their U23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals campaign in Egypt next Saturday and Dele-Bashiru is set to make a statement with the competition.
The NFF released the following statement that read thus:
“Another overseas-based professional in camp is Tom Dele-Bashiru, who featured for the U-20 National Team, Flying Eagles, at the FIFA U-20 World Cup finals in Poland in the summer.
“The 20 –year-old midfielder plies his trade with English Premier League side Watford FC, and was born in the city of Manchester, England to Nigerian parents. He scored Nigeria’s third goal as the Flying Eagles obliterated Qatar 4-0 in their opening game of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland.”
In an interview with brila.net Dele-Bashiru said it’s a great honour to be included in the Olympics Eagles squad under the leadership of coach Imama Amapakabo.
“I have worked hard to be where I am right now, I just want to prove to the world that I can be one of the best and just to try my best for it. “It’s a great honour to play for this fantastic country, I just want to give back and prove to the people that I’m worth the hype and he concluded that Nigeria cannot afford to underestimate anyone in the forthcoming competition in Egypt.
“We can’t underestimate anyone, we just have to give our best,” he said.
Following his debut for Watford in the Carabao Cup game after he ended his association with Manchester City, the Nigerian youth international said he was ready to take the Premier League.
The 19-year-old came off the bench to replace Ismaila Sarr in the 72nd minute for Javi Gracia’s side in their 3-0 victory over Coventry City for his first competitive match for the team on Tuesday.
Dele-Bashiru said he’s not ready to slow down after his debut and ready to help the club win their first premier league game of 2019/2020 season. “I’m happy to make my debut in the Cup and hopefully I can carry on improving and maybe help eventually in the Premier League as well,” Dele-Bashiru told the club website.
“I’d like to think I can help the team going forward. I like to play between the lines, create chances and make runs in behind. I would like to help the team, but that’s down to the manager, he picks whichever team he thinks is best for each game.
“I’ve learnt to improve the defensive aspect of my game because I’m more of an attacking player but it’s also good to have the other side of the game. He (Gracia) tells me to understand my positioning as well.”
Dele-Bashiru who is a graduate of Manchester City’s academy failed to enjoy enough playing time at Etihad Stadium, but the Nigeria Poland U-20 World Cup revelation is thankful to Pep Guardiola for his development to an all-round action midfielder.
“He was a good mentor, I owe a lot to him and he taught me a lot of things. At the end of the day, I felt like this was the best step for my professional career and I’m happy I made the decision to move. It was the desire to play first-team football; I think that’s the next step in my career.
“There is a pathway for young players at Watford. If you show that you’re good enough, I think the manager will show faith. Of course, I’d like to breakthrough in the Premier League, but I’ll just take each step as it comes,” he said.
The central midfielder made one appearance for the Premier League champions, in the Carabao Cup in 2017.
Dele-Bashiru, has represented both England and Nigeria at youth level and scored for Nigeria in May’s U-20 World Cup against Qatar. He becomes the Hornets’ second signing of the summer, following Craig Dawson’s move from West Bromwich Albion. The 19-year-old has risen through the youth ranks at the Etihad Stadium, making his debut away at Leicester during the 2017/18 Carabao Cup campaign and featuring in the U-21s Checkatrade Trophy side last season.
He has spent time training with City’s first-tea m and has broken into Nigeria’s U-20 setup – making three appearances this calendar year, registering a single goal.
But with an abundance of world-class midfielders standing between him and a breakthrough onto the Premier League scene, Dele-Bashiru will seek new pastures at the expiry of his contract.
His departure this summer will see City lose yet another player who has risen through their youth ranks, with Jadon Sancho and Brahim Diaz two of the most high profile players to have previously walked away from City – after refusing to sign new deals.
Sancho forced through an £8m move to Borussia Dortmund in August 2017, while Diaz completed a £15.5m move to Real Madrid in January.
Rabbi Matondo’s winter switch to Schalke 04, meanwhile, is further evidence that the Citizens are struggling to appease their talented pool of youngsters, though Guardiola’s side will be entitled to compensation when he departs as they have previously offered him fresh terms.