Though he is eligible to play for four countries- France, England, Nigeria and Algeria, but it’s the Les Bleus that appear to hold the trump card as he has played for France at the U-18 level. However, the Super Eagles has decided to take a gamble on the 19-year-old as he has been put on stand-by in Gernot Rohr’s 24-man list for the final two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Benin Republic and Lesotho
Super Eagles manager , Gernot Rohr during the week released names of players that would execute the final two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Benin Republic and Lesotho and they were all familiar names except for Reading exciting youngster-Michael Olise, which seems to be catching the attention of everyone.
Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) target was recently rated the 10th most promising player of his age group in the world by Neuchâtel-based International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES).
The Reading playmaker is the only Nigerian eligible-player to rank among the top 25 for the 2000, 2001 and 2002 age groups.
CIES used the capital experience approach, weighing the domestic league minutes played by footballers with the sporting level of their teams of employment on a global level.
Olise is having a breakout season at Reading, recording five goals and nine assists in 33 Championship appearances, including 27 starts.
The solid campaign he’s having saw him linked with a plethora of English Premier League clubs in the January transfer window but he remained put at the Royals.
On Tuesday, Olise was named on the standby list for Nigeria’s upcoming 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches against the Republic of Benin and Lesotho.
The 19-year-old was handed Reading’s number 7 jersey heading into the 2020-2021 campaign, suggesting that he has cemented his place in the first team. His younger brother, Richard Olise, is on the books of Chelsea, where Michael started off his career before joining Reading.
The older Olise is capable of playing multiple positions including right midfield, attacking midfield, left winger, right winger and left midfield.
“My best position? Any position the manager tells me to play. At my age, I think it’s important to spend time on the pitch because it’s the best place to learn and develop your game,” Olise told Daily Mirror.
Olise is eligible to play for France, England, Nigeria and Algeria through his parents. France appear to hold the trump card as he has played for the country at the U-18 level.
He played for France U-18 Squad at the 2019 Toulon tournament. However, it appears he’s also considering representing Nigeria, hence the reason why he is on the standby list for the Super Eagles AFCON qualifiers.
The Three Lions of England are also in the discussion, given he was born in London and currently plays in the country.
Nonetheless, any country that eventually secures his services will be getting a real gem in their squad.
Olise has been one of the standout stars of the Championship season, said manager Jose Gomes, who worked with some extremely gifted players during his time at Porto but the former Reading manager becomes animated at the thought of young Olise.
“We are talking about a player who will bring people to the stadium,” he tells Sky Sports. “It is impossible not to feel happiness when watching his movements and his technical ability.
“He loves to play football and he has the courage to try magical things even in tight areas. Things that some players cannot even do in training, he will do them in a game.”
Now 19, the boy Gomes rewarded with a professional debut in 2019 is fast becoming a man, attracting the attention of the Premier League’s biggest clubs. Only Emiliano Buendia has provided more Championship assists than Olise, each of them from that sweet left foot.
A career at the top end of the game seems inevitable for the Hammersmith-born France U-18 international but that might yet come sooner rather than later – with Reading.
Whether operating on the right wing and cutting inside or entrusted with a central role, as he was in Reading’s hard-fought win over Rotherham, he is the creator. Michael Morrison scored the winner but he recognises the importance of Olise to the team.
“He is really mobile and he moves the ball really well,” Morrison tells Sky Sports. “This season he has taken his game on to another level. He has added consistency to his game, becoming a key player for what we are trying to do at Reading.”
Gomes is not surprised but there is an awareness too that the teenager’s path has not been a smooth one. He arrived at Reading after spells in the academy at Chelsea and Manchester City. Some wonder what they must have missed. Others have questioned his attitude.
Former Reading favourite Stephen Hunt has urged Olise to channel his attitude “in the right way” and, for the most part, that is what he has done.
“Michael did not like to study,” recalls Gomes. “But when I saw him play I asked the academy director if he could train with us.”
It was the step that he needed to take, not that it was straightforward at such a young age. “His body was not very strong so he would lose physical challenges all the time. Others were so much stronger than him.”
Fast-tracking Olise into the first team – he was only 17 years and three months old when making his debut against Leeds United – was a huge challenge but it engaged the player. Before long, he was giving regular glimpses of the quality that set him apart from the rest.
“I loved the speed and the technical ability that he showed. Even without space, under pressure, he was able to dribble past two or three players in a very small space. At the same time, if you give him space he is able to find the net easily with his left or even his right.”
Gomes spotted the potential but it is under Paunovic that it is being realised. The skill was there but it was not until this season that Olise registered his first senior goal. Three more have followed to go with the nine assists. He is now making a real impact on matches.
“I had that conversation with him,” says Morrison. “He had to get his numbers up. You could see he was a good player but he was not assisting enough and he was not scoring enough. He was not converting it into figures and that is what is so important.”
Morrison believes that Paunovic has been key to his development.
“He is lucky to have a manager who supports him, sometimes plays him inside, sometimes plays him outside, knows when to rest him, doesn’t put too much pressure on him to carry the team every week. When you have young talent like that it can be easy to overuse it.
“The manager has also been on to him to make sure that his mentality is right and he achieves everything he can because I would say that he can be a top player in the Premier League. If he works hard now he could get a move to one of the top Premier League teams.
“I am sure he is good enough for that and I know there is a lot of interest. We are lucky to have him but he still needs that game time and this is a really good place for him to be at the moment. He is playing in a good team and I think that has really helped him. As long as he keeps his head down and works as hard as he has been doing, he can go to the very top.”
Gomes agrees and regardless of whether or not Reading are able to achieve an unlikely promotion, he does not think Olise will have to wait long to play in the Premier League.
“I would not be surprised if we see Michael playing in a big team in a very short space of time,” he concludes. “He is different.”
Qlise was born in London but to a French-Algerian mother and a Nigerian father, which makes him eligible to represent four nations.
Football runs in the Olise family as Michael’s younger brother is also a footballer and has been capped by England at the schoolboy level.
Michael started his football career with Chelsea’s youth team, which is also where Michael’s brother (Richard) currently plays.
However, Olise moved to Reading in 2015 and played with the club’s youth team. Due to his young age, Olise did not have a professional contract with the Royals until 2019, signing a three-year deal in July.
The enterprising youngster made his first-team debut for Reading in 2019, coming on as a substitute in a 3-0 home loss to Leeds United.
Since making his debut for the Royal’s first team, Olise’s profile has been on the rise. This season, he is playing a vital role in Reading’s promotion chase. The Royals currently sit fifth in the Skybet Championship table with 60 points, six behind Watford in second place.
Olise’s performances have proved important in where Reading sit on the table. The 19-year-old has scored five goals and registered nine assists in 33 games under Veljko Paunovi this season.
In terms of style and his position on his pitch, Olise is versatile. He has played as an attacking midfielder and on the right-wing this season.
When asked about his preferred position, Olise revealed he was ready to play anywhere on the pitch as he is at the age where he needs to learn a lot about his game.