One of the stars of the Nigerian ‘Dream Team’ that reached the final at both the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup as well as the 2008 Olympic Football Tournament, Dele Adeleye has emerged as a promising defensive alternative for the Super Eagles at the tender age of 21. He and Onyekachi Apam formed a solid centre of the defence at the U-20s and the Olympics, but now they are competing with each other and others to partner alongside mainstay Joseph Yobo in South Africa. He performed admirably as a substitute in Nigeria’s famous 1-0 victory over France at Stade de France in the summer of 2009.
A regular the last three seasons at Sparta Rotterdam, Adeleye can be a commanding presence, but he lacks some experience with the full national team. He appeared in only three of Nigeria’s FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers on the road to the finals, and his sluggish performance against Tunisia in the 2-2 draw last September was criticised. He subsequently lost his place for the vital final qualifiers as the Super Eagles only secured passage to the finals on the last matchday. There are also some questions about his disciplinary record after he was banned for five matches in the Dutch League after an elbow to the face of an opponent late in 2009. He was one of the last players cut by former Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu in the run-up to the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Angola earlier this year. But his composure on the ball married with his athleticism and timing have made him a common rumour target for English Premier League teams looking to strengthen their defences.