With the 2018/19 European season and some other leagues gradually winding up, Completesports.com‘s Johnny Edward picks the top 10 Nigerian players who have been outstanding for their clubs.
1. Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)
The Leicester City midfielder is unarguably Nigeria’s most consistent in-form player this season in Europe. The 22-year-old combative midfielder has featured in 36 Premier League games for the Foxes and has averaged eight successful tackles per game. Ndidi is the 15th best passer of the ball in the EPL this season after 36 games making 1,757 passes and also the second-best tackler with 122 tackles behind Everton’s Idrissa Gueye who has four more than the Nigerian. In 113 appearances for Leicester City, Ndidi has scored eight goals and provided five assists in two and half seasons at the club. He remains a sure bet to make the Super Eagles squad for the 2019 Africa Cup Of Nations in Egypt barring any serious injury.
2. Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua)
Super Eagles striker Ighalo has been in a rich vein of form for both club and country in the last six months. The former Watford striker has scored six goals in his first seven games in the Chinese Super League on the back of his finishing as the top scorer in the Africa Cup Of Nations qualifying series with seven goals in four games. He remains the first choice striker for Nigeria heading into the AFCON.Capped 27 times by Nigeria, the 29-year-old has scored ten goals and will be eager to banish the memories of his poor form at 2018 FIFA World Cup where he failed to score in three games as the team crashed out.
3. William Troost Ekong (Udinese)
Ekong has always been a solid defender for club and country. He impressed for Turkish club, Bursaspor before earning a move to Udinese at the start of the season. Like most of the newbies in a team, he endured a difficult start although he wasn’t particularly to blame for any of Udinese defeats.
So far this season the 25-year-old defender has been one of Nigeria’s consistent defenders playing in Europe. His increasing maturity is showing as he has been solid and reliable defending. His distribution and passing have also improved, making him an integral cog in Gernot Rohr’s system, which emphasizes on quick, short passing. With Leon Balogun not getting regular playing action at Brighton and Kenneth Omeruo not much trusted by Rohr, Ekong could be a stalwart in Nigeria’s defence stalwart ahead of the AFCON in Egypt.
4. Alex Iwobi (Arsenal)
Alex Iwobi is arguably Arsenal’s most improved player since the arrival of manager Unai Emery at the Emirates. Despite Iwobi’s tendency to blow hot and cold for the Gunners, he has become a regular starter at the expense of the likes of Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. As a consequence, the Nigerian has now already made as many Premier League appearances this season as he did in the whole of the 2017/18 campaign, with 33 matches under his belt and two games still to play. He has scored three goals and four assists for the Gunners.
5. Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)
Chukwueze has gone on to prove his talent even further since he came into limelight in 2015 playing for Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets. The 19-year-old joined Villarreal last year and with some strings of outstanding performance, the Diamond Academy product was promoted to the first team. He has been key in helping Villarreal pull away from relegation and they also made it to the Europa League quarter-final, where they were beaten by local rivals Valencia. Chukwueze has scored eight goals in his 34 appearances this season and his release clause has been bumped up even further to €60m. The Yellow Submarine are expecting plenty of interest in their starlet this summer. He will be the cynosure of many scouts this summer at the FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland next month.
6. Victor Osimhen (Sporting Charleroi)
Sporting Charleroi striker, Osimhen, has been one of the brightest young talents in Belgium this season. The 20-year-old Nigeria international who arrived at the club on a season loan from Wolfsburg has really thrived in this campaign.
With 14 goals and four assists from in his first season void of injuries, Osimhen will be hoping to force his way into Gernot Rohr’s AFCON squad. He scored a brilliant hat-trick, as Nigeria’s U-23 team beat their Libya’s counterpart 4-0 to the final round of the 2019 U-23 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers 4-2 on aggregate.
7. Paul Onuachu (Midtjylland)
Paul Onuachu has been in tremendous form this season for Midtjylland and he is currently been rated among the best strikers in the Scandinavian Leagues. The lanky Nigerian who made history on his debut scoring the fastest international goal for the Super Eagles in their 1-0 win over Egypt in an international friendly last month. Onuachu, just like other strikers, scores great goals but his consistency over the last three years is such that no current Super Eagles striker has matched.
The FC Ebedei product scored 23 goals in 45 appearances for FC Midtjylland three seasons ago and during the 2017/18 season, the lanky Nigerian forward bagged 17 goals in 32 games. The 25-year-old is not only the top scorer in his team, but the highest Nigerian in Europe with a remarkable 21 goals in 37 games so far this season for FC Midtjylland.
He will certainly bring something a bit different to the Super Eagles attack, few players in the team can match him for the pace at the moment in the squad. However, the chances of Onuachu’s inclusion in Nigeria’s AFCON 2019 squad are very bright as he offers a great deal of aerial threat to the team.
8. Stephen Odey (FC Zurich)
After settling in well at his Swiss club, FC Zurich, Stephen Odey has been in sensational form this season, his first full season. Odey has been key to the club’s brilliant season start under Ludovic Magnin, scoring 15 across all competitions to rank as the club’s highest scorer this season with two games left to play in the Swiss League.
9. Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr)
Ahmed Musa has put his dismal spell at Leicester City behind him. The 26-year-old returned to Russia on loan towards the end of last season and scored six times. He also registered three assists in ten games prior to the World Cup.
His resurgence saw him earn a big money move to Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia. For Nigeria, his brace against Iceland was the highlight of the Super Eagles campaign at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. At Al Nassr, the Nigeria stand-in captain has scored seven times, provided seven assists in 22 league appearances, doing just enough to justify his big-money move to Saudi Arabia. With the Super Eagles, the forward scored twice during the AFCON qualifiers.
10. Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City)
Etebo made a name for himself with his exploits at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and has shown promise in his debut season in the English Championship with Stoke City this outgoing season, nailing down a starting place at the Bet365 Stadium.
With two goals and one assist to his name in 28 games, Etebo’s dynamism in midfield has been very impressive. His rangy stride allows him to beat a man as well as he breaks up possession – winning the ball more times in the midfield third than any of his teammates this season.