The 2020/2021 campaign was a brilliant season for some Nigerian stars, but not so much for many of the country’s top players.
Paul Onuachu and Simy Nwankwo were the stand-out performers. Onuachu made history as he became the first player to score more than 30 goals in the Belgian top-flight this century.
Simy, meanwhile, became Nigeria’s top scorer in a single season in all of Europe’s top five leagues with 20 goals for Crotone in the Italian Serie A.
It’s even more impressive, given he scored 20 goals for a team that had five wins all season and suffered relegation.
In France, Terem Moffi was one of the revelations as he scored 14 goals in his debut season to help Lorient avoid relegation.
Moffi only signed two months after the league had started, which makes his numbers more impressive.
Kelechi Iheanacho also had his best campaign in the English top-flight with 19 goals in all competitions for Leicester City.
The likes of William Troost-Ekong and William Ndidi also had a good season for their clubs. But aside from these players, it was an average or below par season for Nigerian players in Europe last season.
However, the new season, which kicked off last weekend, offers them a chance to bounce back. As a result, Soccernet takes a look at Nigerian players that have a point to prove this season.
Victor Osimhen (Napoli): In fairness, Osimhen’s performance last season was not bad, considering the circumstances that affected him.
The 22-year-old missed more than three months of action due to a shoulder injury and coronavirus but still managed to score ten goals in the 24 league games.
But for a player that cost Napoli a club and an African record fee of 81.3m euros, it’s not good enough. However, with Luciano Spalletti in charge this season, Osimhen is expected to become one of Serie A’s top strikers.
He can’t afford to have a bad season as a lot is expected from him. He has already shown fans a glimpse of what to expect with seven goals and an assist in four preseason games.
Emmanuel Dennis (Watford): Just over two years ago, Dennis grabbed the headlines across the world after he scored twice against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in a UEFA Champions League match.
However, two years later, he’s trying to get his career back on track. Dennis endured a torrid time at Club Brugge last season, no thanks to his spoilt attitude.
He spent the latter half of the campaign on loan at FC Cologne, but his situation never improved, and his attitude was questioned again.
The Super Eagles star joined Watford this summer to end his relationship with the Belgian champions. Dennis’ move to Watford will see him play in the Premier League, which will put him in the spotlight.
It’s a very important season for Dennis- an opportunity he cannot afford to waste.
Oghenekaro Etebo (Watford): There are five Nigerian players currently on Watford’s books going into the new season.
One of them is Etebo. The Super Eagles star joined the Hornets on a season-long loan deal with an option to buy from Stoke City.
Etebo spent last season on loan at Galatasaray, but his performances were not good enough to earn him a permanent deal.
The former Las Palmas star has struggled over the last two years, but he has a chance to put things right with his move to Vicarage Road.
Henry Onyekuru (Olympiacos): Like Etebo, Onyekuru also spent last season on loan at Galatasaray-although it was just for the second half of the season.
It was his third consecutive loan stint at the club, but despite his impressive performance, Galatasaray could not afford to sign him permanently from Monaco.
Olympiacos managed to meet Monaco’s demands, and they signed Onyekuru on a four-year deal. With his future now secured, Onyekuru can now concentrate on his future, and maybe a strong performance can earn him a move back to Europe’s top leagues.
Ola Aina (Torino): Ola Aina spent last season on loan from Torino from Fulham, but he could not save the Cottagers from relegation.
He has now returned to Turin ahead of the new Italian Serie A season. Aina has spent two seasons at Torino- one on a loan spell from Chelsea before signing permanently in 2019.
Aina had a good first season in Italy, but his level dropped the following year. But the new season provides him with another opportunity to get back to his brilliant best, and he has the backing of the new Torino boss, Ivan Juric.
Alex Iwobi (Everton): Another season, another below-par display. That was the case of Alex Iwobi in his second year at Everton.
Iwobi joined the Toffees from Arsenal in 2019 for a fee in excess of 30m pounds, but he’s yet to justify the price.
His first season was poor despite playing over 30 league games. Last season wasn’t different either. The new season will be his third year at Goodison Park, but it’s the most important one.
With Rafael Benitez now in charge at Everton, this season is crucial for Iwobi. The Nigerian has played under three different managers since arriving, but his performances were more of the same.
Should he fail to improve under Benitez, this season could be his last in the blue half of the Merseyside.