As the World Cup gets underway tomorrow, reports from Italy suggest that Crystal Palace are eyeing up a move for Nigeria midfielder Joel Obi.
Obi started for the Super Eagles against England in their 2-1 friendly defeat at Wembley last week and is now expected to play a key role in their campaign over in Russia, with his performances likely to be tracked closely by Palace scouts all through the tournament.
The 27-year-old, born in Lagos, joined Inter Milan’s academy at the age of just 14, graduating into their first team five years later. Originally spotted as a potential first-teamer by Jose Mourinho in 2009, Joel was definitively moved into the professional set-up at the San Siro by Rafa Benitez, making a total of 69 appearances for the Black and Blues before being sold to Torino for a fee believed to be just under £2 million in the summer of 2015.
In the three years, Obi has been based in Turin and has made 59 appearances, scoring seven goals. But it is his form over the last nine months which is likely to have caught the eye of Freedman and Hodgson. In just 25 appearances in all competitions, the midfielder has notched six goals; a stat which bodes well for his future prospects, should he indeed make the switch to the Premier League.
Of course, should he play a starring role for the Super Eagles over the next month, interest in him will skyrocket but with Nigeria’s first game set to take place Saturday against Croatia, there is still a little time for Palace’s representatives to make headway on a contract, should they indeed hold serious interest in getting Obi’s services ahead of next season.