Born to a Nigerian father and German mother in West Berlin, Leon Aderemi Balogun has come a long way to become the Super Eagles leading center back.
Raised in West Germany, Balogun started his football education at an early age when he joined the youth system at Hertha Berliner Sport-Club. He later moved to Hertha Zehlendorf. However, it was at Türkiyemspor Berlin Balogun made his professional debut in 2007 at the age of 19 in the lower tier of football in Germany. He made a total of 29 appearances scoring four goals before he joined German Bundesliga outfit Hannover 96 in 2008.
At Hannover, Balogun teamed up with their youth set-up, where he made 37 appearances between 2008 and 2010. Balogun never established himself with the Hannover first team, making just three appearances in two years and moved on to Werder Bremen. Balogun joined up with the Werder Bremen youth team but again struggled to consistently feature for their first team.
Balogun decided to feature in the lower tier of German football with Fortuna Düsseldorf and after a few appearances for the youth side, he went on to feature frequently for the first team in his two-year stay. He then joined fellow lower division side Darmstadt 98 in 2015 but decided to move on after one season and made the step up to Mainz in the First division. It was at Mainz that Balogun would make a name for himself, making a total of 52 appearances in three seasons before a move to the Premier League with Brighton and Hove Albion.
Unlike his defensive partner with the Super Eagles, William Troost-Ekong, Balogun did not feature for any of the German youth teams at any level. Balogun also did not participate in any developmental tournament with the national youth teams – Golden Eaglets and Flying Eagles.
His first appearance on the international scene came in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil where he was introduced as a substitute for Captain Joseph Yobo in a friendly game. Balogun narrowly missed out of the final team list to the tournament, he later stated that it was a big disappointment for him.
Following the Super Eagles failure to participate at consecutive Africa Cup of Nations in 2015 and 2017, Balogun had to wait four years for his first major competition with the Super Eagles. With the appointment of German tactician, Gernot Rohr, to lead a rebuild of the Super Eagles, Balogun was given a more prominent role in the Super Eagles in the qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
At the tournament in Russia, Balogun featured in all three group games and was rated as one of the team’s top performers. Balogun has a total of 28 appearances for the Super Eagles but is still searching for his first goal for Nigeria.
While Troost-Ekong is credited with bringing toughness to the Super Eagles backline, Balogun has brought composure and discipline. Balogun functions in the left side of defense as he is comfortable passing the ball with two feet.
Known for his possession play and bringing the ball from the back in transition, Balogun has established himself as one of Rohr’s lieutenants, sometimes ahead of Kenneth Omeruo who has been in fantastic form at club level for two years.
Balogun, now 31-years-old, is among the senior players in the Super Eagles squad going to the 2019 AFCON.