The 2020/2021 football season delivered a lot of brilliant performances, including Nigerian players. Several Super Eagles stars broke records while some helped their team win a trophy.
Paul Onuachu leads the list of outstanding Nigerian players in the just-concluded season. The 27-year-old scored 33-league goals to finish as the top scorer in the Belgian Jupiler League.
Onuachu also scored two goals to help Genk win the Belgian Cup. The Nigerian international deservedly won the player of the year in the Belgian top-flight.
In Italy, Simy Nwankwo suffered the disappointment of relegation with Crotone, but he broke several records after scoring 20 goals in the Italian Serie A.
Simy became Nigeria’s all-time top scorer in the Italian top-flight, while he’s also the first African since Samuel Eto’o to reach the 20-goal mark in a single Serie A season.
But the two impressive records that stand out are becoming Crotone’s all-time top scorer and scoring the most goals by a Nigerian in a single season in Europe’s top five leagues.
Moving away from Simy, a new star on the block, Terem Moffi, scored 14 league goals in his first season to help Lorient avoid relegation from the French Ligue 1.
Umar Sadiq also reached the 20-goal mark for Almeria in the Spanish second division. Kelechi Iheanacho had his best season in England with 19 goals and seven assists for Leicester City.
Away from individual performances, the duo of Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun helped Ranger win their first Scottish Premiership title since 2011.
Iheanacho and Ndidi also played a key role in helping Leicester City win their first FA Cup title. And just on Wednesday night, Samuel Chukwueze joined the list of Nigerians that have won the Europa League after Villarreal defeated Manchester United in the final.
The achievements of these players should be celebrated, and it’s a good thing for the national team. The current Super Eagles squad is arguably the best the nation has produced since 1994.
However, the success of these players means Gernot Rohr has no more excuse ahead of next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
The German tactician has been in charge of the Super Eagles since 2016 but has failed to make an impact in the two major tournaments he has led the team to.
While he remains unbeaten in the qualifiers, the Super Eagles best showing in a tournament was the third-place finish at 2019 Afcon, just a year after crashing out in the 2018 World Cup.
Rohr has always given the “young and inexperienced” team excuse since he arrived, but he can’t play that card anymore, especially now that the team is full of winners.
This current crop of players have not only been playing together for almost four years, but they have also started winning titles at their respective clubs.
Their individual performances have also been a delight to watch. Right now, the Super Eagles have one of the best squads on the continent and will go into next year’s Afcon as one of the favourites.
Rohr may want to try and downplay Nigeria’s chances, but anything other than a podium finish should be seen as a failure.
Although many factors affect a team’s chances of success in an international tournament, the Super Eagles have a squad that can win, and a top-two finish should be the minimum target for Rohr.
The players have shown they have what it takes to win titles, while some have been brilliant individually. It’s time for Rohr to use these attributes to the team’s advantage.
Next year’s Afcon is still seven months away, but Rohr now has a team that can compete. He’s done well in the qualifiers, but it’s time he wins something.