The Nigerian football space has been dominated over the last few months by the duo of Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze, but could there be another rising star on the horizon waiting for his chance to shine
Some of Europe’s biggest clubs are already in hot pursuit of the Lille striker, and the Villarreal winger with either or both of the youngsters likely to make a big-money move this summer.
Yet there are visible signs that another young Nigerian talent may follow in their footsteps in the not-too-distant future.
His name? Chidera Ejuke!
Currently on the books of Heerenveen in the Dutch top flight, the 22-year-old attacker’s impressive displays this season have gone almost entirely and unfairly under the radar.
In only his first season in the Netherlands, Ejuke has simply been Heerenveen’s best player. The youngster has found the back of the net ten times while posting another six assists in the 29 games he’s featured in.
Placed in context, Super Eagles captain Ahmed Musa notched just eight Eredivisie goals and eight assists in the two seasons he spent at VV Venlo, following which he forged a fantastic career for himself.
Ejuke can be even better. Before he moved to Heerenveen last July, the young winger had smashed in seven goals for Valerenga in Norway – the 2019/20 season started early over there.
His combined 17 strikes, therefore, make him one of Nigeria’s most prolific players in Europe. Mind you, he plays primarily as a winger.
But these incredible goals and assists numbers only tell half the Ejuke story.
Ejuke has not only been Heerenveen’s brightest shining star, but he is also by far the most exciting young talent in the Dutch first division.
Ignore the hype around Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech and Dusan Tadic, the Nigerian forward is, by a country mile, the best dribbler in the Netherlands.
Of the players who have played ten league matches or more, Ejuke has attempted and completed the most dribbles (103/183), yards ahead of AZ Alkmaar’s Oussama Idrissi in second place (85/125). (whoscored)
When compared with English Premier League stars, Ejuke’s 4.1 successful dribbles per league game betters that of Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic (2.4), Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe (2.7), Liverpool’s Sadio Mane (1.9) Man City’s Raheem Sterling (1.8), and Man United’s Marcus Rashford (2).
Yes, the EPL is more competitive than the Eredivisie, but that Nigerian lad has got something that can’t be kept under wraps forever.
He is quick, fleet-footed, tricky, comfortable on the ball, and seems to effortlessly dance past defenders as a hot knife would through shea butter. It’s like watching a right-footed Arjen Robben on steroids.
He is, however, far from being the finished product. And, as with budding prospects, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
The former Valerenga man needs to work on his final balls, especially concerning his decision-making in the opposition area.
Sometimes, holding on too long to the ball makes him appear a bit selfish. But on closer observation, it’s evident he’s a team player.
Such a player would thrive in Gernot Rohr’s Super Eagles.
Unpredictable, direct, and with an eye for goal, Ejuke can do a pleasant job anywhere across the frontline. He could mainly be the man to push Bordeaux’s Samuel Kalu for that left-wing spot of the Eagles’ attack.
That would leave Nantes’ Moses Simon and Villarreal’s Chukwueze slugging it out for a first-team shirt on the other flank.
Although he’s yet to extend an invitation to the Heerenveen star, Rohr cannot overlook the former Gombe United dazzler for much longer.
An attacking quartet of Alex Iwobi, Osimhen, Chukwueze, and Ejuke will terrorize even the best defence in the world. Think pace, power, and prowess. That’s a possibility too exciting to ignore.
As things stand, Ejuke may just be the next big name from Nigeria who the major European clubs would start pursuing after Osimhen’s, and Chukwueze’s next destinations are decided.
Don’t let the fact that Heerenveen paid just 2 million euros to snap him up last year or that he’s already worth double that (transfermarkt) fool you, Ejuke’s star is on the rise.