Ola Aina: England Return on the Horizon

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With regular shirt almost impossible at Chelsea considering the more experienced players at the Stamford Bridge’s disposal, Nigerian international Ola Aina was finally shipped to Torino on a permanent move after an initial loan spell at Hull City. However, a move to English football may be on the horizon with West Ham United and Everton lurking

According to Calciomercato, Torino will seek at least £9 million for West Ham United and Everton target Ola Aina this summer.

Aina came through the youth ranks at Stamford Bridge and moved to Torino permanently last summer after an impressive loan spell at the club, but the Nigerian international, however, could be set to return to England.

The Italian editorial Calciomercato claim Torino will seek a similar fee to what they paid, while West Ham and Everton are both cited as suitors.

The Hammers have had problems at right-back all season, Pablo Zabaleta is aging, while Ryan Fredericks has been inconsistent since joining the club from fellow London side Fulham.

It came as a surprise to see West Ham fail to sign a right-back in January, but they will surely strengthen that position this summer.

Everton on the other hand will likely look to sign a right-sided defender amid the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the futures of Jonjoe Kenny and Monaco loanee, Djibril Sidibe.

Aina has started 15 Serie games for Torino this season. He has averaged 1.4 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per league encounter.

Still young at 23, Aina has the best years of his career ahead of him and his versatility means he can play at either fullback position.

The two clubs have already contacted Torino on the defender regarding the player and As per Gazzetta dello Sport has valued the player at €18m.

The likes of West Ham and Everton should be able to pay that fee if they are truly interested in signing the player.

The Hammers need to improve defensively and Aina could be a good addition to their back four. The youngster has done well for the Serie A club but he is keen on returning to London. Aina wants to stay closer to his family.

The young full-back could replace Zabaleta at the back next season. The Argentine defender will be a free agent this summer and West Ham are unlikely to renew his deal.

After his departure, West Ham will be left with Fredericks as their only right-sided defender and the former Fulham ace hasn’t been consistent since his move to the club.

Aina has the quality to start for the London club next season and it will be interesting to see if the Hammers pay up. They should look to make their move quickly in order to avoid a transfer battle with the other suitors like Everton.

The defender can play as a left-back as well and his versatility will be an added bonus for his suitors.

With more experienced players like Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonzo and Emerson at Chelsea’s fold regular playing time was hard for Aina to come by, he was therefore loaned to Hull City last season before another loan spell to Torino, which later turned to a permanent move.

Aina saw Azpilicueta consolidate his right-back position at Chelsea under manager Maurizio Sarri and even captaining the Blues.

Aina has said severally he is delighted with his new environment and the opportunity to hone his skills in Italy after he joined Walter Mazzarri’s men temporarily for 2018-19 campaign after extending his contract with Chelsea to 2021 last month.

After spending the majority of his career in England which included a season-long spell with Hull City, the 23-year-old highlighted differences between the two countries.

“I really like Turin. It’s not as big as London, but it’s a bit more relaxed and relaxing, a bit like me. In England, we train a lot in the morning, here it’s more the afternoon. I’m getting used to it though. Everyone is adapting to me, and obviously vice-versa. My teammates have made me feel good from the beginning, I thank them because it made it much easier for me to settle in,” Aina was quoted as saying by Football Italia.

“Serie A is very different from the Premier League, the football in England is more physical and fast. It’s slower here and there’s more time to think, but you need a very different, more intense, attention to tactics. That’s good for me because that’s exactly what I need to improve.

“I chose Torino because of the coach Walter Mazzarri, I talked to him and I got the feeling he wanted me and wanted to help me grow. I also felt he wanted me to work for him, that I could be important for his cause. Then, of course, Torino have a great history and the Italian league is one of the best, so I couldn’t say no.”

The 23-year-old believes he has started brightly this season, and looks to continue to make a good impression on the first team.

He said: “I have started very well this season, thanks also to my teammates and to the coach, when there are challenges I always face them openly because I believe in my potential.”

He went on to praise Mazzari’s tactics and team set up, emphasising how he likes to be given the freedom to attack as well as defend.

Little wonder he has suddenly become a vital part of the team.

“I’ve been enjoying it so far. I’m enjoying training and the games, and all the challenges as there are some top sides here. I’m settling in just fine. My Italian was good but it’s dipped a little.”

“The difference is a lot,” Ola Aina said. “The level is a lot higher, the concentration and tactical side of things are a lot higher than the Championship. For me, that is what is key for me this season. Right now, the squad are just focusing on each other, and to take each match as it comes. We want to play good football and get as many points as possible and win games. So if we can focus on this, then who knows.”

Normally played on the right side, Aina has been operating on the left, though he admitted it makes no difference where he plays.

“Both right and left are the same,” Aina continued, “the only difference is you have to use your other foot. Simple really.”

He was born in London and was raised by two Nigerian parents, he was also one step away from participating in the last World Cup in Russia: he was in fact included in the preliminary list, but was not chosen in the final 23.

A few years ago, when Josè Mourinho was still the manager of the Blues, he spoke highly of the player and his efforts. Aina won a number of titles with the youth team at Chelsea which forced the Special One to say “He has great potential and I believe that he will represent the future of the club.”

After Mourinho left, Aina was mentored by Conte and with the Italian Aina played in the 3-4-3 and on 3-5-2 systems and knowing Mazzarri, a young player that knows how to play in a system with three defenders is ideal.

Aina said, “I only arrived in August, but I immediately got along well with my new teammates, I tied up with Meite, Ferigra, Edera, but also with many others.
“I feel at home and for this I thank them. I started this season very well thanks to my teammates and to the coach.

When there are challenges I always face them openly because I believe a lot in my potential.

“Chelsea allowed me to be here because they know that this is an excellent championship and an opportunity to improve even tactically, I chose Torino because I talked to the coach and he immediately made me feel important for this team, and then because this club has an important history.”

The 23-year-old Chelsea Academy product is good in making short passes and is a good dribbler. He was a right-winger when he first joined The Blues at U11 level before he was converted into a defender.