The year 2020 has been an unusual one due to the coronavirus outbreak, which forced a worldwide lockdown for almost three months.
The beautiful game of football was not left out as all leagues were suspended for three months while international competitions were shifted for a year.
Although the virus is still out there, the game has since returned, including international football. However, for Nigeria, it wasn’t the best of years for the national teams.
The Flying Eagles failed to qualify for the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations while the Super Eagles failed to win any of the four matches they played this year.
Nonetheless, some players stood out from the rest, and as a result, Soccernet has decided to select the team of the year.
Goalkeeper- Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam)
The young goalkeeper edges out Daniel Akepyi for the number one position. Okoye joined Sparta Rotterdam from Fortuna Dusseldorf in the summer but had a difficult start.
However, the 21-year-old has been able to turn his situation around is now Sparta’s undisputed first-choice goalkeeper. He has three clean sheets in eight league appearances for Henk Fraser’s side this season.
While Akpeyi also had some good performances in the first half of the year, he never got to play for the National team with Okoye playing in all of Nigeria’s four games for the year.
Centre Back- Semi Ajayi (West Brom)
Semi Ajayi was arguably Nigeria’s best defender this year due to his consistent performances for West Brom both in the Championship and Premier League.
The 27-year-old played a vital role in the Baggies promotion to the top-flight while he has played in all but one of the club’s Premier League games this season.
On the international scene too, he featured in the four games Super Eagles played and was even used in an unfamiliar defensive midfield role in the friendly games against Algeria and Tunisia.
Centre Back- Leon Balogun (Wigan and Rangers)
Leon Balogun joined Wigan on loan in January after two tough years with Brighton. The Latics’ move proved to be a turning point for him as he was afforded more minutes.
Although Wigan suffered the disappointment of relegation, Leon Balogun’s performance was enough to convince Rangers to sign him on a one-year deal with the option of another year.
The 32-year-old has excelled so far at the Ibrox, making 17 appearances in all competitions for Steven Gerrard’s side.
Balogun is also back fully in the national team and was one of the few Super Eagles players who impressed in the games played this year.
Centre Back- Chidozie Awaziem (Leganes and Boavista)
Like Balogun, Chidozie Awaziem also had the agony of relegation with Leganes. Los Pepineros were relegated from the Spanish top-flight last season with both Awaziem and compatriot, Kenneth Omeruo in the team.
Despite the disappointment, Awaziem was among the players with impressive performances and was shortlisted for Leganes player of the year.
Following Leganes relegation, Awaziem joined Boavista on loan from Porto, who are the primary owners. He has been brilliant for Boavista with one of his best performances coming in the 3-0 win over Benfica.
Due to the partnership of Leon Balogun and William Troost Ekong, Awaziem has found it difficult to play regularly in the national team. Still, he had his moments in the four games played this year.
Right-Wing Back- Tyronne Ebuehi (FC Twente And Benfica)
Tyronne Ebuehi has not had it easy in the last two years. He missed the whole of 2018/2019 campaign due to a knee injury. Although he did recover last season, he never featured for Benfica’s first team, playing just for the reserves.
However, he returned to the Eredivisie in the summer, joining FC Twente on a season-long loan deal. The move has paid off with Ebuehi now playing regular football again.
The 24-year-old has made 14 league appearances for The Tukkers while he also made a return to the National team.
Ebuehi was impressive in the games against Algeria and Tunisia, showing why he is Nigeria’s best right-back when fit.
Left-wing back- Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto and Santa Clara)
Zaidu Sanusi caught the public’s attention when he moved from Santa Clara to FC Porto in the Summer. The Nigerian was signed for just €2.50m, but he’s worth more now.
Alex Telles move to Manchester United helped his transition into Porto’s squad, and he has been impressive all season.
The 23-year old has made 16 appearances for the Dragons scoring two goals and registering one assist from his left-back position.
His performances at Porto earned him a call-up to the Super Eagles squad where he has now usurped Jamilu Collins as the team’s left-back.
Defensive Midfielder- Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)
Ndidi is probably the only world-class player in Nigeria’s team. His importance to the Leicester City team can never be overstated.
Recently, Foxes manager, Brendan Rodgers admitted the Nigerian is irreplaceable in Leicester’s team as there’s no other player that operates on his level.
The Nigerian international has not featured a lot this season due to an injury that kept him out for almost three months.
But since his return, he has been outstanding and was named the man of the match in the clash against Tottenham last week.
He’s up there with the best defensive midfielders in the world right now. The former Genk midfielder is the fulcrum of the Foxes side, and his presence in the team gives his teammates more confidence.
Due to the injury he picked up earlier this season, Ndidi did not play for the Super Eagles this year. But he did enough at club level to seal his place in the team.
Central Midfielder- Joe Aribo (Rangers)
Joe Aribo has been brilliant all year for Rangers. The former Charlton midfielder was Rangers young player of the year while his fantastic goal against Braga in February was voted the goal of the season.
Although he was out for six weeks this campaign, he has been key to Rangers brilliant start in the Scottish Premiership.
The 24-year-old has four goals and two assists in 13 league games for Rangers this season. The Gers are yet to lose in the league this season and are on course to win their first league title since the 2010-2011 campaign.
Aribo missed Nigeria’s games against Algeria and Tunisia, but he was back for the doubleheader against Sierra Leone.
Attacking Midfielder- Alex Iwobi (Everton)
It has been a mixed year for Alex Iwobi, but his form in recent Everton matches means he takes his spot in the team.
After a difficult 2019/2020 campaign, Iwobi’s future at Goodison Park was up in the air, especially after Everton brought in the trio of James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan.
However, he eventually stayed and has been able to convince Everton manager, Carlo Ancelotti. The former Arsenal star has gone on to make 14 appearances this season- although his end product is still a concern with no goals yet.
But it’s also important to note that he has played different roles for the Toffees this season, including a right-wing back.
The 24-year-old had success on the international scene, though, scoring twice in the disastrous 4-4 draw against Sierra Leone.
Striker- Victor Osimhen (Lille and Napoli)
Victor Osimhen is yet to hit the heights that made Napoli pay an African record fee for his services. Still, it has been a good year for the 21-year-old.
Napoli paid a club and African record fee of 81.3 million euros to sign the Nigerian international from Lille.
The former Wolfsburg striker had a brilliant debut campaign for Lille last season. Osimhen scored 18 times in all competitions for Les Dogues including five this year.
His performances earned him a record-breaking move to Napoli. Although he’s yet to justify the hefty fee, he has managed two goals in eight appearances for Gli Azzurri.
Osimhen was also on target in the 4-4 draw against Sierra Leone, even though he went off injured in that encounter. The injury has kept him out for almost two months, but it was still a decent year for the ex-Golden Eaglets star.
Striker- Paul Onuachu (Genk)
Paul Onuachu may not be fans favourite, but he has been Nigeria’s best player this season. The tall striker has scored a whopping 15 league goals in 17 appearances for Genk this campaign.
The ex-Midtjylland striker is averaging 0.8 goals per game. No other Nigerian has scored more than the 26-year-old this season.
Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, is surprisingly not a fan of Onuachu’s style. Nonetheless, his club form earns him a spot in the attack alongside Osimhen.
Super Eagles XI For 2020: Maduka Okoye, Semi Ajayi, Leon Balogun, Chidozie Awaziem, Tyronne Ebuehi, Zaidu Sanusi, Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Aribo, Alex Iwobi, Victor Osimhen, Paul Onuachu. (3-5-2)