COMMENT

Maduka Okoye is responsible for his problem but he can still turn it around

The 22-year-old shot-stopper is no longer the first choice at both club and national team levels.

Maduka Okoye is no longer the first choice at club and national levels

The 2021/2022 season started greatly for Super Eagles goalkeeper Maduka Okoye. Okoye had just signed a four-year contract with Sparta Rotterdam when the 2021/2022 season started.

The four-year contract was a reward for his incredible form in his first year at Sparta (2020/2021 season), which saw him win the club's player of the year. With a new contract and newfound confidence, Okoye went into the 2021/2022 season in great form.

However, five months into the season, Okoye signed a pre-five-year contract with Watford.

The Nigerian international signed the deal in December before moving this summer, but six months later, the decision could not have been more wrong, and Okoye is already feeling the effect.

The deal caught many by surprise as Okoye had no reason to leave his Dutch club at that time. Although his record in goal was not impressive, his place at the club was not under pressure- hence why the Watford deal came as a surprise.

While the appeal of the Premier League might have played a part as Watford were in the English topflight then, it was clear that The Hornets were dead certs for relegation when Okoye signed.

Still, Okoye signed the deal. The deal is reminiscent of Ekong's move to Watford from Udinese. In 2020, Ekong left the Italian Serie A to join Watford in England's second division.

Although he helped Watford gain promotion to the Premier League in his first year, Ekong lost his place in the lineup six months into the club's Premier League campaign.

Okoye's move is similar to Ekong's deal as he also swapped topflight football for England's second division, even though Watford were still in the Premier League when he signed.

Okoye resumed training with Watford this summer with the intention of becoming the club's first-choice goalkeeper. In fairness, it looked like that would be the case following Ben Forster's departure from Watford at the end of last season.

However, to the surprise of many and Okoye himself, Watford's new Rob Edwards revealed that Austrian goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann would start in goal in the new season.

"Dan (Bachmann) will start the season in goal," said Edwards, as reported by the Watford Observer.

"I've had a chat about it with Madu (Okoye), who isn't just a really good goalkeeper but also an unbelievable person.

While one cannot criticise Edwards for taking the decision he thinks is best for the team, it is a setback for Okoye, especially his development.

However, he has only himself to blame for his predicament following his decision to leave Sparta. Although Sparta may not be a big club, they offered him stability, which was what he needed for his development.

Okoye sabotaged his development when he sacrificed his stability at Sparta for the unknown at Watford. At Sparta, even though they were not Ajax, Okoye was noticed because he played in the Dutch topflight weekly.

However, he threw that away for the uncertainty at Watford, and he is now feeling the effect. It is even more baffling that he left Sparta for Watford when there were reports that Ajax were considering signing him as a replacement for Andre Onana, who left for Inter Milan.

Okoye has gone from a first-choice goalkeeper in the Dutch topflight to a second-choice in England's second division in just six months. It is important to note that it is not just at the club level that Okoye lost his place.

The 22-year-old is also no longer the undisputed number one goalkeeper in the Super Eagles following his role in Nigeria's exit from the Africa Cup of Nations.

Okoye came under criticism for failing to prevent Tunisia's goal in Nigeria's 1-0 loss in the Round of 16. Since the defeat, Okoye has not played for the Super Eagles, and with his situation at Watford right now, it does not look like he will regain his place anytime soon.

However, despite the challenge he is facing right now, Okoye can still turn it around. He will not start as Watford's first-choice goalkeeper, but he can still make the position his in the long term.

After all, Bachmann started last season as Watford's number one before he was usurped by Forster. Okoye can take inspiration from Forster's situation and continue to work hard with the hope that Bachmann's form will drop.

While it is not a good thing to pray for someone's mistake, Okoye has no choice but to hope for a mistake from Bachmann.

At the international level, he has nothing to worry about as the Super Eagles do not play a major international tournament until 2024. Still, he needs to find a solution to his situation at Watford before then. He brought the situation upon himself when he left Sparta, but there is still hope for him.

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