Leon Balogun and Oghenekaro Etebo: What would these Eagles bring to Brighton and Stoke?
The World Cup is the only football event big enough to take the shine off the transfer market. European clubs, however, aren’t too distracted. Some teams, including Brighton & Hove Albion and Stoke City, are quietly going about their business, beefing up their playing squads.
The aforementioned clubs both shared a similar elite status until last season's end. Albeit, while Stoke sank, Brighton sailed – they’re the Seagulls after all.
Albion, thanks to the excellent Chris Hughton, paid the 40-point due that necessitated Premier League survival and a 15th-place finish. Yet, it’ll be foolhardy to begin another campaign without bolstering the squad. To address the issue, the Sussex-based club has signed Nigerian international, Leon Balogun on a free transfer. We expect more to follow.
Stoke City might’ve been shown the Premier League door but the Potters are signalling a marked intent of boomeranging straight back to the Premier League. Unlike Albion, Stoke has a lot of sorting out to do regarding the future of some big players who might not be too sold on the idea of playing Championship football. The fact that they’ve been able to capture the duo of Benik Afobe from Wolves and Feirense's Oghenekaro Etebo is a good sign, though.
Balogun and Oghenekaro Etebo – two Nigeria Super Eagles players currently camped in Russia with a responsibility of doing their country proud will be playing in England for the first time next season. Here’s a peep at what they’d bring to their respective clubs.
Lanky, quick and experienced, Brighton did some pretty decent business in signing Balogun for absolutely nothing. The Nigerian defender has no Premier League experience but that isn’t a criterion for judging talent.
Balogun has had a nomadic career in Germany, playing for Hannover, Werder Bremen, Fortuna Düsseldorf and Darmstadt. The last three years have been spent with a decent Mainz team.
Although injuries restricted him to just 14 league appearances last season, Balogun is no less a versatile centre-half who can hold his own anywhere.
Already approaching his prime, the 29-year-old comes with a wealth of experience that would be pivotal for Hughton’s side. No doubt he'll get his Premier League chances as the season gets busy.
For a player who is fast and can efficiently use the ball, Balogun would effortlessly slot in on the South Coast. He’ll surely improve their squad strength endlessly, while his towering 6-foot-3 figure also comes in handy for aerial duels. He'll also be an added goal-threat in set-piece situations.
Stoke gaffer Gary Rowett, who's in for a testing season, said Etebo has been a top priority for the Potters long before the end of the season. Signing him before the end of the World Cup gives credibility to that assertion. According to Rowett, the Nigerian midfielder turned down Premier League offers to join the Stoke project. It makes sense to sign him before the World Cup in case he goes to Russia, enjoys a stellar tournament and receives offers he can’t refuse.
Etebo is a powerhouse who can single-handedly lift his team with energetic contributions. He doesn’t have the same passing ability of Cesc Fabregas but the Nigerian is sure to cover more ground.
The man from Nigeria spent the latter part of last season at La Liga outfit Las Palmas on loan from Feirense. Although Las Palmas eventually got relegated, he was probably the most notable star in the faltering team.
Brimming with the youthful energy that comes with being 22, Etebo will inject tenacity, pace and exuberance into a Stoke City midfield that was otherwise lethargic last season. Etebo can play comfortably as a winger and can hold his own in central midfield.
Stoke City can count on their new midfielder to create goals and score a few himself. He should succeed in England.