New Telegraph

Lookman’s Famous Hat Trick

Things are looking up for Ademola Lookman whose three goals against Bayer Leverkusen made Atalanta continental champions, for the very first time. It was the first Europa League hat trick for the Nigerian, who is becoming synonymous with three.

Lookman’s goals mean that for the first time since 1975, an individual scored thrice in a one-off European final. That result ended Leverkusen’s record 51-match unbeaten run. The Germans won the Bundesliga way before the last game and remained unbeaten at home and away – until they met their Waterloo at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland last Wednesday. Remarkably, Lookman began his career at the Waterloo Academy.

It was a night of mixed feelings at the Dublin Arena on May 22, 2024. While the winners lifted their talisman in celebration, two other Nigerians, Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella, wore long faces like their Leverkusen team mates. Winner and losers that is good news for George Finidi and the Super Eagles.

With World Cup qualifying games against South Africa and Benin Republic looming, the Nigerians are blessed with one of the best attacking forces anywhere on the continent. A team that parades reigning African Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen, CAF Team of the Tournament striker Lookman and Bundesliga winner, Boniface, should be too hot for any opposition to contend with.

Goals win matches, Finidi has quality players who can make this happen. The Super Eagles manager must apply tact in handling his super stars to get their maximum support. Lookman was not happy in the last friendly with Mali in Morocco, apparently because he was not given enough playing time.

A look at Lookman’s past should be of interest. Thrice, he rejected Nigeria; his eyes were on Gareth Southgate’s England. Of course, the striker was born in the United Kingdom and played for the youth teams of the Three Lions.

On the way to winning the FIFA Under-20 Championships in 2017, England defeated Nigeria 8-1, in a 2016 dress rehearsal dubbed the Suwon Under-19 Four-Nation Tournament in South Korea. Lookman was one of the five Nigerians that played for England.

Like the Biblical Peter who denied Jesus Christ three times before the cock crowed and later became the rock of Christianity, Lookman has moved from denial to determination

The others were Dominic Solanke, Fikayo Tomori, Ovie Ejaria and Joe Oshomah. The same star who rejected and even played against his nation, later embraced his country in February 2022. From a very poor outing against Ghana Black Stars as a debutant on March 25, 2022, Lookman has grown to become an integral part of the Super Eagles.

Like the Biblical Peter who denied Jesus Christ three times before the cock crowed and later became the rock of Christianity, Lookman has moved from denial to determination. He has an African Nations Cup silver medal to show for switch of allegiance.

Comparatively, Lookman and Osimhen are a good pair. The latter played in Germany (Wolfsburg) like the former (RB Leipzig). Italy has brought out the best in them. Osimhen was voted Serie A Footballer of the Year, 2023. Atalanta chose Lookman as Player of the 2022/2023 Season. In 2015, Osimhen won the FIFA Under-17 Championships in Chile.

Two years later, Lookman lifted the FIFA Under-20 Championships in South Korea. The duo were key members of the Eagles squad that finished with the silver medal at the Cote d’Ivoire 2023 African Nations Cup. While all eyes were on Osimhen in Abidjan and Bouake, Lookman stole the show with three goals and one assist. It was good for the Eagles.

To show their perfect partnership, one of Lookman’s goals against Cameroon was assisted by Osimhen. Lookman’s outing in Cote d’Ivoire was exactly like what happened in South Korea. In 2017, he scored a brace (against Costa Rica) in the round of 16. His goals tally at the end stood at three.

In 2024, the striker beat the Cameroonian keeper twice, in the round of 16 and ended up with three goals in all matches. It has been a journey for Lookman, from England to Germany, and now Italy. From a Europa League debut, playing for Everton against MFK Ruzomberok in 2017, he has now won the trophy, with so much ease.

The last time Atalanta won anything was the Coppa Italia, in 1963. The Europa League came 117 years after the club was founded. Lookman will remain an eternal hero for his role in changing the face of Atalanta.

We need more of these heroics in the Super Eagles. Finidi must apply psychology of the senses in handling this star-studded Eagles team. The World Cup ticket is not just a task – it is a mission that must be accomplished.

Read Previous

JUST-IN: Hoodlums Attack Ipaja Police Station In Lagos

Read Next

President Tinubu’s One Year In Office…a Review