On the back of a rather successful season on loan at Hull City, Chelsea full back Ola Aina had options aplenty for his next move last summer, with interest from all corners of Europe. Chelsea, unfortunately, were not one of them, but Torino FC in the Serie A were. It’s a move that has turned out to be even more successful than last season.
As he reflects now, ten months later, Aina did not immediately jump at the opportunity. He was born and raised in London, and had spent his entire life and career in England. Moving and adapting to a new country all by himself is not an easy challenge to take on, especially at 22. But sometimes in life, you need to make a sacrifice to better your chances in the future.
“It was even a shock to me, really. I just got a call one day saying Torino are interested, what do you think? I was a bit hesitant, because it’s a whole different country, by myself out here, I wasn’t too sure. There was a place in me that was a bit uneasy. I just wasn’t sure about anything.
“I spoke to my family, my agent, my agent about it. Everyone had the same answer for me: they all said it’s a sacrifice. Sometimes you’ve got to do things that you don’t like, to boost yourself. This was an opportunity to be in a top league, and to get some good experience. And to try to do well for myself.
“I just took a leap of faith, and I just did it. Thankfully it has turned out to be more than what I expected.”
This “leap of faith” is not a very common career choice to make for most players in England, though that paradigm is slowly changing, especially as the Premier League continues to import top talent from around the world, shrinking opportunities for homegrown players at the highest level of the “English” game.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, experiencing new horizons and other cultures is never a bad thing.
“Coming out here is really good. You always hear about these other foreign players – Spanish players, African players — leaving home at a young age to come and play. But you never hear from young British guys who’ve gone out to Spain at the age of 15 or whatever and learned his trade. You never hear that. There’s always a question mark. Why not?
“For example, Cesc Fabregas came to Arsenal when he was very young. Didier Drogba was very young when he went to France. I just think why can’t English players do that as well? Why can’t you go to Germany or Italy or Spain and make a good name for yourself?
“Right now, it’s the way forward. But going into Europe, it’s a whole different mindset. It’s a whole different football to English football. That’s an experience you can keep with you for the rest of your career.”
As far as that rest of his career is concerned, Ola Aina’s future probably lies in Italy. His loan contract with Torino has a €10 million buy-option, which they are expected to take up.
There’s plenty of interest in his services form other Serie A teams, too, like Fiorentina an both Milan clubs, but at least for now, he sees his future at Torino. He is happy being part of their setup, playing under former Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri, learning Italian from watching TV, and hilariously documenting teammate Nicolas Nkoulou’s amazing fashion choices on Instagram. It’s a good life — why change it?
“Why not [stay at Torino]? It’s a good fanbase. It’s a very cultured club. You can tell by the fans and how everything is run here. It’s a nice place to be and I am very happy right now”
-Ola Aina; source: Independent
If Ola’s happy; we’re happy. We might have been happier if he had found this success (or be given the chance to find it) at Chelsea, but perhaps our paths will cross in the future again. He’s set for a bright future and we wish him all the best.