It has been an unprecedented year for football and the world in general- although in the game’s case- it is not for the action on the pitch.
This year, a global pandemic forced sports and almost every other sector to take a backseat as the world put their focus towards a fight against a virus- Coronavirus.
The coronavirus, which originated in China, caused almost every sector of the world’s economy to shut down for over three months.
The virus has killed over a million people and to reduce the spread; countries were forced to impose a national lockdown.
Football was not left out as the 2019/2020 season went on an enforced break for over three months. The break caused major disruptions in the football calendar with some league ending abruptly while scheduled international tournaments were moved for a year.
However, despite the enforced break, the game resumed in May- albeit in unusual circumstances as games were played behind closed doors. The resumption allowed major leagues and the UEFA Champions League to complete their season.
International football was also not left out as the UEFA Nations League held between September and November while the Africa Cup of Nations of qualifiers also resumed.
Although the break caused a lot of changes, Nigeria still managed to play four games in the year. The three-time African champions played two international friendlies against Algeria and Tunisia in October before facing Sierra Leone in back to back Afcon qualifiers in November.
And with the year coming to an end, Soccernet decides to rank the Super Eagles top ten players for 2020. It should be noted that only their performance at both club and international level in 2020 was taken into consideration.
Tyronne Ebuehi (FC Twente)
The first name on the list is a player, who is rejuvenated. It has been a difficult last few years for Tyronne Ebuehi, but the 24-year-old is finally enjoying his football again.
The Benfica suffered a knee injury that ruled him out of the 2018/2019 campaign, and when he finally recovered, he found it difficult get game time, playing no part in the first team last season.
However, at the start of the new campaign, FC Twente offered to take him on loan, and he is now revitalised in the Dutch top-flight.
Ebuehi has made 13 league appearances for The Reds, starting in all of the games. He has managed one assist and has been brilliant at both ends of the pitch.
The former Ado Den Haag star also made his return to the international scene, featuring in the international friendlies against Algeria and Tunisia.
Chidozie Awaziem (Leganes and Boavista)
Chidozie Awaziem suffered the disappointment of relegation with Leganes last season, but he was one of the club’s best players.
He made 26 La Liga appearances for Los Pepineros last season and was nominated for the club’s player of the season.
But following Leganes relegation, Awaziem returned to his parent club, Porto, who then loaned him to league rivals, Boavista.
Although Boavista are currently struggling, Awaziem has been one of the shining lights in their squad. His most impressive performance yet came when he captained the team to a stunning 3-0 win over Benfica.
Leon Balogun ( Wigan and Rangers)
Like Ebuehi, Leon Balogun also had limited game time at his former club Brighton Hove and Albion.
Balogun joined the Seagulls in 2018, but he made less than 20 appearances for the side. As a result of his lack of game time, he joined Wigan on loan in January, and the move put his career back on track.
While Wigan suffered relegation after going into administration, Balogun’s performance in his six-month loan stint was enough to convince Rangers to sign him on a one-year deal with an option for an additional year.
He has started well at the Ibrox, making 15 appearances in all competitions for the Gers, including 11 in the Scottish Premiership. The 32-year-old is also back in the Super Eagles fold after losing his place due to his inactivity at club level.
Zaidu Sanusi (Santa Clara and FC Porto)
Zaidu Sanusi only came to public consciousness in the latter part of the year, but it was enough for him to earn a spot in the list.
The 23-year-old made 26 appearances for Santa Clara in the Portuguese top-flight last season, and his performances impressed the champions, Porto, who signed him for €2.50m.
Sanusi did not waste any time to settle down at Porto- although he also benefited from Alex Telles sale to Manchester United.
He has 14 appearances in all competitions for the dragons, including six in the Champions League, where he made the team of the week after scoring in the matchday four victory over Marseille.
Sanusi also has one goal and an assist in seven league games for Porto. His brilliant start to the season earned him a call-up to the Super Eagles squad where he’s now the team’s undisputed left-back.
Semi Ajayi (West Brom)
Semi Ajayi is arguably Nigeria’s best defender this year due to his consistent performances for West Brom.
Unlike some of his Super Eagles teammates, Ajayi has enjoyed regular football at club level all through the year.
The 26-year-old was a stalwart in defence as the Baggies secured promotion to the top-flight. He has featured in all but one of West Brom’s Premier League games.
Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)
The Super Eagles star had a rough start to last season, but he came alive last December, and he carried that into 2020, scoring five goals and registering two assists in all competitions.
He is yet to open his account in the league this season, but he has three goals in six Europa League games for the Foxes.
Iheanacho was frozen out of the Super Eagles squad during the period he could not get minutes at Leicester, but he is back in the team and was even on target in the draw against Tunisia last October.
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)
The Nigerian international has missed most parts of this season due to injury, but his importance to Leicester can never be overstated.
Ndidi was part of the Foxes squad that finished fifth last season, but it could have been different had he not missed almost a month between January and February.
The 24-year-old and Chelsea’s Ngolo Kante are arguably the best defensive midfielders in the English top-flight.
After returning from his injury, his teammate, James Maddison revealed he feels more confident with Ndidi in the Leicester team, and it showed in the win over Tottenham on Sunday.
Joe Aribo (Rangers)
If there’s a player that exhibits this quote “simplicity is genius”, it is Joe Aribo. The Super Eagles star was brilliant for Rangers last season from start to finish.
His goal against Braga in the Europa League Round of 32 back in February was voted as the goal of the season.
Aribo was also voted the club’s young player of the year and has started this season well. The former Charlton midfielder has been key to Steven Gerrard’s unbeaten start to the Scottish Premier League season.
He has four goals and one assist in ten league games and has created three big chances this season.
Victor Osimhen (Lille and Napoli)
This may be an unpopular choice, but Osimhen sits in second place. The 21-year-old joined Napoli from Lille in the summer for a club and African record fee.
Although it was as a result of what he did last season, a majority of his goals came last year with just five goals in his 2020 appearances for Lille.
However, he was also not helped by the fact that French football authorities decided to end the Ligue 1 season abruptly due to Covid-19.
He is also yet to hit top gear with Napoli with just two goals and one assist in eight games- even though he is currently out for over a month.
Paul Onuachu (Genk)
He may not be Rohr’s favourite, but there’s no one more deserving of the top spot than Onuachu.
Genk currently sit second in the Belgian Jupiler League, but it won’t be an exaggeration if one says that’s down to Onuachu’s form.
The former Midtjylland striker averages 0.8 goals per game with 14 strikes in 16 league games. Not only that, he has two assists to his name and has been mostly unplayable this season.
But despite his brilliant start to the season, he has found it difficult to convince Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr. Nonetheless, his club performance seals his spot as the top Nigerian player for 2020.