There will be a keen interest in the performances of Nigerian stars in the Italian Serie A when the action gets underway this weekend.
The Italian top-flight is the last major league to kick off this season, starting a week after the German Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga and English Premier League.
There won’t be a shortage of Nigerian stars in the league this season. Tyronne Ebuehi joined Venezia on loan from Benfica and has started on a promising note, but it would be interesting to see how he adapts to the Italian League.
Ola Aina is back with Torino after spending last season on loan at Fulham, and he’s set to play a key role in Ivan Juric’s team.
Joel Obi will be hoping to keep Salernitana in the league after signing a one-year deal. The Super Eagles star could be joined by Nigeria’s top scorer in the league last season, Simy Nwankwo.
However, while fans will keep an eye on these players, the main attention will be on no other than Victor Osimhen.
Osimhen is entering his second season in the Italian Serie A, and he has a lot to prove this campaign. The Super Eagles striker joined Napoli from Lille for a club and African record fee of 81.3m euros.
The transfer fee paid for his services put a lot of pressure on him going into his debut season. Osimhen scored ten goals in 24 league matches, but there was a feeling it could have been more if he had not missed three months of action due to a shoulder injury and coronavirus.
This season, however, looks promising for him, and he has even been tipped to finish as the league’s top scorer. But what are his chances of challenging the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile for the Capocannoniere award?
Ronaldo finished as the league scorer with 29 goals last season, while Immobile scored a massive 36 goals in the 2019/2020 campaign.
Osimhen will likely need to reach the 30-goal mark if he is to have the chance of finishing top of the goalscorers table.
He has already shown in pre-season games that he is up to the challenge. The Nigerian international scored eight goals in five pre-season matches to show he’s ready to rock this season.
Osimhen can also feel confident in his chances after Napoli appointed Luciano Spalletti as a replacement for Gennaro Gattuso this summer.
Although Gattuso put his arms around Osimhen, it was clear that the team did not play to the Nigerian strength last season.
But under Spalletti, he’s more involved in the team’s general play in the pre-season games. Aside from that, strikers have excelled under the watchful eyes of Spalletti.
Francesco Totti, Mauro Icardi and Edin Dzeko all finished as Serie A’s top scorers under the Italian tactician. The omens look good for Osimhen.
But there are two obstacles.
Even though he has been tipped to excel under Spalletti, Osimhen could still end up short in the race for the Capocannoniere award.
Past winners were penalty takers for their clubs, but Osimhen is not Napoli’s designated taker with that role belonging to their captain Lorenzo Insigne.
And with Ronaldo and Immobile taking penalties for their clubs, Osimhen may have to score in almost every game if he’s to match their numbers.
Nigeria’s involvement in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon could also affect Osimhen’s chances of winning the award.
The biennial competition will take place between January 9 and February 6 next year after it was postponed this year due to the coronavirus.
Osimhen is expected to be part of the Super Eagles squad, and that could see him miss five games, including the clash against Juventus. Five games out of 38 matches is a lot to miss, especially for a player hoping to finish as the league’s top scorer.
Except he scores multiple hat-tricks, it’s hard to see Osimhen winning the Capocannoniere award this season. But the season will still be a success if he’s able to reach the 20-25 goal mark at least.
He has never scored more than 20 goals in a season in his young career, but this season could be the year he reaches the 25-goal mark, and that will represent a successful season.