Rangers could be hit with a triple blow during the months of January and February, with three first-team stars likely to be involved in the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria.
Leon Balogun, Calvin Bassey and Joe Aribo are all currently on their way back to Rangers after being in Gernot Rohr’s Super Eagles squad for a pair of World Cup Qualifiers against the Central African Republic.
Bassey didn’t make his debut and as a result, is not yet cap-tied. That’s relatively significant, as he’s also eligible to represent both England and Italy.
However, the 21-year-old does appear to have made his decision, while both Balogun and Aribo are established starters.
Therefore, it would be a surprise if all three weren’t called up to represent the West African nation in Cameroon.
Nigeria won’t be going to AFCON 2022 just to make up the numbers, either. At 34th in the world, they are currently the fifth-highest African country in the FIFA Rankings and will be hoping to go all the way.
If they are called up for the tournament, which begins on 9 January, the trio will almost certainly miss some Rangers action.
If they make it all the way to the final, they could miss as many as five matches.
A Scottish Cup tie and league fixtures against Livingston (H), Ross County (A) and Hearts (H) all fall during AFCON 2022, while a home Premiership clash against Hibernian falls just three days after the final.
Aribo has started every league game so far this season, while Balogun and Bassey have made ten and eight appearances respectively across all competitions.
Steven Gerrard will likely be concerned about the prospect of being without three important players for a substantial period of time and it could even affect his thinking in the transfer market, depending on the injury situation at Ibrox at the turn of the year.
In other news, a Rangers star’s World Cup hopes are officially over.