2019 was a great time for Nigeria footballers in Europe as the likes of Samuel Chukwueze and Victor Osimhen burst into the public’s consciousness with their undeniable talents. With the old guards – like the retired duo of Odion Ighalo and Mikel Obi – vacating their Super Eagles spaces, new stars are taking over and the world is taking notice.
Here following are the top ten Nigerian players likely to set tongues wagging in their respective clubs and leagues. Be on the lookout.
1. Wilfred Ndidi
The Leicester City midfielder has been one of the highest performing players in the English Premier League, and the second half of the season can only get bigger.
Brendan Rodgers is expected to rely even more on the talents of one of the world’s best defensive midfielders as the Foxes seek to chase down Liverpool in the race for the league title.
Even if Leicester City fail to beat the Reds to the title, a place in the champions league spots would still be a successful ending to a remarkable season, and Ndidi would have played a key role in that.
2. Samuel Chukwueze
It’s been heartwarming to watch Samu continue his development with the La Liga side, and all things being equal, he should still be a Villarreal player after the January transfer window is slammed shut.
Coach Javi Calleja trusts him, the 18 times the Nigerian youngster has appeared in the league this term is a testament to that. More playing time will definitely afford Chukwueze the time to showcase his talents at the highest level possible, to the watching delight of fans.
3. Henry Onyekuru
After a forgettable spell at French side Monaco, Onyekuru is back in familiar surrounding in Turkey with Galatasaray. The Super Eagles forward was a revelation with the champions last term as his 14 league goals were crucial to Gala romping to the title.
The 22-year-old is rearing to impress after a dull first six months of the season. Fans may soon see the old, exciting Onyekuru once he returns to the pitch with Faith Tetim’s men.
4. Ebere Eze
The QPR midfielder is one of the most naturally gifted players in the Championship, and it is not a surprise he has enjoyed an incredible season thus far.
With ten goals and six assists to the Hoops cause already, Eze may not remain in the lower league for much longer with Tottenham known to be interested in the little magician.
However, whether he stays with Mark Warburton’s side or he moves up the division, the 21-year-old is poised to deliver more spectacular performances in the coming months. And you don’t want to miss out.
5. Umar Sadiq
It has taken only a little time for the AS Roma loanee to settle in Serbia as the young forward is one of Nigeria’s most prolific strikers in Europe. Sadiq’s 11 league goals in only 16 starts speak of a player at the top of his game.
With second-placed Partizan Belgrade set to chase down league leaders Crvena Zvezda – there’s an 11 point difference between the two – the 22-year-old forward will be eager to maintain his impressive form this new year.
6. Emmanuel Dennis
The highlight of a whirlwind first half of the season for the Nigerian international remains that brace he netted at the Santiago Bernabeu for Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League.
There are rumours of an impending move to the Premier League, but even if that deal collapses, there is a lot to look forward to in Belgium. Brugge, the league leaders, are aiming to wrestle the title back from Genk and Dennis could play a big role in that.
7. David Okereke
Dennis teammate at Brugge, Okereke only moved to Belgium in the summer. A fiery start saw him smash in four goals in his first four starts for the Blue-Black.
But he struggled afterwards before ending the year on a high by bagging a brace in the 4-0 demolition of Zulte-Waregem. The Lagos-born attacker can go on to achieve great things in the New Year as Brugge aim even higher.
8. Olanrewaju Kayode
Kayode went under the radar after an ill-advised move to Manchester City eventually see him land in Ukraine with Shakhter Donestk. The former Austria Wien striker is now back in Turkey with Gaziantep, after joining in the summer.
A slow start to life in Turkey was not surprising, but things have picked up for the 26-year-old who banged an incredible six goals in 7 showings in December. Now that he is finally settled at his new side, Kayode is about to show the Turkish Super Lig the best of his penalty-box prowess.
9. Joe Aribo
Aribo was famously condemned for moving to Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers after helping then League 1 side Charlton Athletic regain their Championship status. But since then, the 23-year-old has played and scored in the Europa League, while he has also debuted, and become a key player for the Super Eagles.
2020 could become an even greater year for the Camberwell-born midfielder as he leads the Gers’ charge to unseat bitter rivals Celtic as the champions of Scotland.
10. Victor Osimhen
2019 was Victor Osimhen’s year with the youngster transforming from an unknown quantity in Belgium to one of the world’s most sought U-21 star in France.
The 21-year-old joined Lille from Royal Charleroi in June after scoring 20 times in 36 appearances for the Belgian side last season.
Although not a direct replacement, Osimhen’s task was to ensure he gets the goals that Lille would be missing following the sale of Pepe to Arsenal.
Not only has he excelled at the task, but he has also more than doubled his value with his performance. With 13 goals so far in all competitions for Les Dogues, Osimhen’s market value has increased from 13m euros to 30m euros.
With a lot of clubs reportedly interested in him, the next 12 months could be crucial for the Super Eagles forward as he could seal a big move to one of the top clubs in Europe.