MANAGER Russell Martin said everyone at Saints is proud of Joe Aribo for reaching the Africa Cup of Nations final and hopes Nigeria can lift the title this weekend.

Aribo's Super Eagles take on tournament hosts Ivory Coast at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium on Sunday - and are hoping to claim their fourth African crown.

Aribo is one of two Southampton-signed players in Nigeria's squad, alongside loaned out forward Paul Onuachu.

Both have primarily been used from the bench by coach José Peseiro, who has a wealth of quality options available to him.

Asked by the Daily Echo how proud he is of Aribo's achievement with Nigeria, Martin said: “We all are.

"We have all shared messages with Joe and we have watched. Big Paul (Onuachu) as well, he is one of the nicest guys I have ever met in football.

"I am really pleased for Joe and I hope they can go all the way. He is really enjoying himself.

"We miss him as a player and as a guy; he was in such a good place before he left and he’ll come back, hopefully, in a better place having won the final.

"We wish him all the best. I think it’s great for the club, I really do.

"It’s amazing to have a player representing us so well, not only the way he is on the pitch but the way he conducts himself off it as well.

"We are all rooting for him, and I know he is rooting for us. He has messaged after every game to say well done and I know the boys are in constant contact with him.

"I am really pleased and hopefully he can go on and win it.”

Should Aribo return from the Ivory Coast with an AFCON winner's medal, he will add a winning mentality to a Southampton side chasing promotion back to the Premier League.

Saints currently sit second in the Championship, one point ahead of Leeds (who have played an extra game) and two points in front of Ipswich.

Martin's side still have to face both of those - and Leicester - away from home, with their final game of the season at Elland Road penciled in a potential promotion decider.

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"I think it would help us," Martin continued. "Winning any silverware in your career, especially going away with your country and winning something like that, would be an incredible achievement.

"You can imagine the boost that would give you as a football player and as a person. His energy is amazing anyway.

"Even when he wasn’t in the team, he is infectious and a great team-mate, smiling all the time, so good for the young players. He’ll come back even better, I’m sure.”