Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down almost all activities worldwide including football leagues across the world, about 75% of matches have been played in Europe’s divisions.
In the English Premier League, Liverpool were just two wins away from winning their first league title in almost 30 years. In Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid were embroiled in a close title race with the Catalan giants leading Los Blancos by just two points.
In Italy, Juventus, Lazio and Inter Milan were the three frontrunners, while Paris Saint Germain were the runaway leaders in Ligue 1.
Aside from the teams, there have been players that have separated themselves from the rest with their brilliant performances.
Some Nigerian stars are in this category, and in this piece, Soccernet.ng takes a look at Nigeria’s top five players in Europe this season.
The criteria used in making this list include the number of games played, performances, league quality and importance in the team.
5. Joe Aribo (Rangers): The 23-year-old arrived at the Ibrox on a free transfer from Charlton last summer. However, Aribo has settled in brilliantly to become one of Rangers most important players.
He’s a player Rangers manager, Steven Gerrard trusts so much, and this shows in the number of games he has played for the Gers this season.
Aribo who made his international debut last September has played 48 times in his first season at the Ibrox. In the 48 games, he has had a hand in 17 goals, scoring nine times and registering eight assists.
However, it is not just the number of games and goals that make Aribo a key player, but also because he can play in multiple positions.
This season, the Super Eagles star has played as a right-winger, left-winger, central midfielder, defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder and an unorthodox left-back.
4. Moses Simon (Nantes): Like Aribo, Moses Simon is also spending his first season at a new club- although on loan. The 24-year-old joined Nantes on loan from Levante, and it has been a success.
Simon is arguably Nante’s player of the season so far with nine goals and eight assists in 30 games. The Super Eagles star has been a handful for Ligue 1 defenders with his pace and trickery down the flanks.
The former Genk man has had a hand in 37% of the goals Christian Gourcuff’s side have scored this season according to Transfermarkt.
Simon has been so brilliant that some of Europe’s topsides have taken notice of his performances, which could be bad news for Les Canaries.
3. Cyriel Dessers (Heracles Almelo): The newly-invited Super Eagles star is Nigeria’s top scorer in Europe and could’ve been ranked higher if not for the performances of the two players above him.
Born in Belgium to a Belgian father and Nigerian mother, Dessers switched international allegiance to Nigeria and was set to make his debut in March before the Super Eagles clash against Sierra Leone was postponed.
Nonetheless, the 25-year-old is having one of the best seasons from a Nigerian player in modern times. The last time a Nigerian striker had a prolific season like Dessers was probably when Yakubu Aiyegbeni was in the Premier League.
Dessers is only in his first season with Heracles, but he’s now the club’s topman. The former Utrecht striker has scored 18 times for the Heraclieden including 15 in the Eredivisie.
He’s currently the joint top scorer in the Dutch top-flight along with Feyenoord’s Steven Berghuis. It’s a remarkable feat for a player who is just in his first season at a new club.
Although not the typical modern-day striker, Dessers has an eye for goal and has played a part in 50% of the goals that Heracles have scored this season.
He may not have the skill set of an all-round striker, but he knows how to find the back of the net- an attribute which made Yakubu a premier league great.
2. Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City): The Nigeria international joined the Foxes in 2017, and has become one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.
This season, Ndidi is arguably the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League and has played a crucial role in the Foxes brilliant campaign.
Brendan Rodgers side are on course to qualify for the champions league next season as they currently sit in third place.
However, their surge would’ve been impossible if not for the performances of Ndidi. Vardy scores the goals, Maddison provides the creativity, but Ndidi is what makes Leicester tick as he is the fulcrum of the team.
The 23-year-old offers protection for the backline while he also acts as the base that sets up Leciester’s attack.
No one does a better job in breaking up attacking play like Ndidi. He’s currently the second player with most interceptions in the premier league this season.
To put into context on how vital Ndidi is to Leicester, the Foxes won just one game from the matches Ndidi missed between January and February due to a knee injury.
1. Victor Osimhen (Lille): The 21-year-old edged out Ndidi as Nigeria’s best player in Europe this season. Osimhen arrived Lille from Royal Charleroi last summer, and he has justified every penny spent on him.
The former Golden Eaglets had scored 20-goals for the Belgian side in the 2018/2019 season, which made Lille pay 13m euros for his services.
But despite his success in Belgium, there were still doubts due to his struggles at Wolfsburg. However, Osimhen has cleared all those doubts with 18 goals and six assists in 38 games for Christophe Galtier’s side.
He has taken France by storm and has been linked with a move to several topsides in Europe. If he continues in this form when league football resumes, it’ll be hard for Lille to retain his services.
Osimhen’s success is more satisfying given his career was threatened by malaria at a point.