Real Salt Lake's Sunday "Sunny" Obayan hoping MLS move rekindles Nigeria career

Sunday "Sunny" Stephen Obayan - Real Salt Lake - 1/21/2016

Seattle Sounders striker Obafemi Martins blazed the trail, now Real Salt Lake’s Sunday “Sunny” Obayan is attempting to follow it.

When Martins signed with Seattle in March 2013, he was firmly out of the Nigerian national team picture. While he received sporadic call-up initially after joining the MLS side, he forced his way back into the player pool with his continued success in Seattle.

Once billed as one of Nigeria’s brightest talents, Obayan, who signed with RSL last week, is hoping that he too will be a hit in MLS, and that some success with Salt Lake could put him back on Nigeria’s radar.

“I remain confident that hard work and success could lead to another chance with Nigeria,” he said in a story published on Monday by BBC Sport.

“This is a growing league and what Obafemi Martins has done here creates a clear path for me to follow.”

While Obayan is certainly optimistic, it should be noted that he’ll likely have a much longer road back to the international level than Martins. The 27-year-old midfielder began his career in Spain, playing for their U-19, U-20 and U-21 teams before earning his lone senior cap with Nigeria in 2010. He’s bounced around Europe in his club career, playing for six clubs – and going out on loan to three others – since turning pro in 2005.

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Still, he’s hopeful that he’ll make a positive impact with RSL, mirroring the success of his countrymen Martins, Portland Timbers striker Fanendo Adi and ex-MLS forward Bright Dike, who earned several caps with Nigeria before injuries derailed his career.

“I have a lot to prove and am still ambitious,” he said. “A new club is just what I needed and my focus is on settling down and establishing myself here.”