Even the most diehard of Serie A supporters would likely admit that they had not heard of Torino wing-back Ola Aina before the current campaign began. Born in Southwark, the 22-year-old represented England at almost all international youth levels before opting to play for the Nigeria senior side, where he already has seven caps for the Super Eagles.
He arrived in Turin on loan from Chelsea this past summer having also spent a temporary spell with Hull City in the Championship during the previous season, the youngster becoming a regular feature on Humberside with 44 appearances to his name in 2017/18.
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Making another loan move was clearly the right decision for him as opportunities in the Chelsea first team would have been scarce, Maurizio Sarri blessed with the likes of Marcos Alonso, Cesar Azpilicueta, Davide Zappacosta and Emerson Palmieri already fighting for the two wing back slots.
“I know this is a club that believes in young people and this is very important,” Aina declared upon his move to Turin, making a thinly-veiled dig towards his parent club. “In Italy I know that I can learn a lot, because the tactics and organisation of play are essential.”
He is indeed correct, and recent performances versus AC Milan and in the Turin derby with Juventus show that he is already benefiting from the tutelage of experienced boss Walter Mazzarri in the more tactical Italian game. While his statistics were always going to be lower versus the superiority of the still unbeaten Juve, a look at his previous match demonstrates just how well Aina is adapting to life in the Italian top flight.
At San Siro, he made one cross, three dribbles, and one shot on goal, while he also created two chances for team-mates and completed 93.1% of 29 passes attempted. The Chelsea loanee also impressed the defensive duties that his role demands, helping to keep Milan to a 0-0 scoreline with two tackles and one clearance in total.
Bakayoko & Ola Aina both excellent tonight, look like keepers & long term starters for Milan and Torino
— David Amoyal (@DavidAmoyal) December 9, 2018
While the player has stated his desire to play in the Premier League in the long-term, it is understood that Torino are ready to pay the £7 million buyout clause in his contract to keep him in Italy on a permanent basis, and his performances in Mazzarri’s 3-5-2 system certainly prove he deserves it.
Playing top-flight football offers me different challenges,” Aina revealed to Goal.com. “It has helped me to become a better player. I am bringing what I have learned here into the national side and I hope it will pay off in the long run.
“The players are really established and experienced so it was good to come up against that calibre of footballer. It will just make me better. I am working on the tactical side, positioning, staying concentrated and just being able to affect the game higher up the pitch as well.”
Whatever happens next, it is clear that Ola Aina is one to watch out for in the future.