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How top Nigerian footballers fared abroad in challenging season (PART 2)


The 2019/20 football season across the globe was a challenging one, no thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that disrupted schedules and even led to the cancellation of some leagues’ seasons.

Like their counterparts across the world, Nigerian players were in the thick of the action but as would always be the case, it was mixed fortunes for them with their various teams.

PREMIUM TIMES in this concluding part looks at performances of Nigerian players in what has been the longest season ever across many countries

Read the first part of this analysis here.

Germany

Taiwo Awoniyi (Mainz)

A lethal striker leading the latest generation of products from Nigeria Golden Eaglets. Awoniyi had a fair season with Mainz with 13 appearances and one goal to his credit.

He had five starts while seven of his games were from the bench as Mainz finished in 13th position last season. Awoniyi gave a good account of himself and had a good all-round game. The biggest highpoint of his season came in June when cheated death by the whiskers after suffer­ing a concussion in Mainz’s 1-0 home loss to Augsburg.

Jamilu Collins (FC Paderborn)

Strong and versatile, he enjoyed a fine start of the 2019/20 season, forming a partnership with the more experienced duo of Schonlau and Killian in the heart of Paderborn’s defence.

Jamilu carries a great threat going forward as left full-back; an attribute that saw him play 30 matches, scoring one goal with two assists.

Regarded as a thoroughbred defender who intercepts passes and breaks down opposition attacks without picking up cards. Little wonder he bagged just seven yellow cards through the season; a number considered small for a defender.

His season however ended in disappointment as Paderborn got relegated to the second division after finishing bottom on the log.

France

Victor Osimhen (Lille)

He is regarded as the new bride of Nigerian football after a successful campaign in the French Ligue1 scoring 18 goals and six assists in 38 matches.

Osimhen was a massive signing for Lille whom he joined from Royal Charleroi, hitting the ground running at Stade Pierre Mauroy, to win the confidence of the club’s fans and club officials alike.

His massive season’s campaign was rewarded with the Marc Vivien For Award as best African player in the French league, after he dislodged competition from compatriot Moses Simon (Nantes), Saint-Etienne’s Denis Bouanga, Montpellier’s Andy Delort, Monaco’s Islam Slimani and Rennes’ trio of Mbaye Niang, Hamari Traore, and Edouard Mendy.

His biggest reward came after suitors battled to have him sign for them.

But Napoli did well to sign the former Wolfsburg striker in a reported €50m deal to cap a successful season for the towering striker.

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Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux)

Considered to be surplus to requirements by coach Paulo Soussa, Kalu was tipped for a move away from France after he dropped from the pecking order of starters in the club.

Kalu was an integral part of the team when he joined Bordeaux in August 2018 from Belgian Jupiler side, KAA Gent, but his form nosedived no thanks to series of injuries.

With his 2019/20 season blighted by a series of injuries, Kalu played 20 matches, with a goal and one assists to his credit. He was gradually crawling his way back into the team in January before the French Ligue1 season was suspended due to COVID-19. He was later tested positive for the virus and was treated.

Moses Simon (FC Nantes)

He was so good that Nantes opted to sign the Nigerian winger on a permanent deal. Nantes had to embrace the option of giving Simon a four-year deal because of his impressive performance during his loan stint.

An uncompromising character who is used to success with his club sides, Simon positively overflowed with optimism, encouraged by home advantage and the discipline, spirit, and attention to detail instilled by coach Christian Gourcuff.

Moses was on Nantes scoring sheet nine times and provided eight assists in 30 matches played to cap his one-year loan deal from Levante. He wrapped up the season as Nantes player of the year award and narrowly lost Marc Vivien For Awards to his Nigerian compatriot, Victor Osimhen.

Turkey

Onazi Ogenyi ( Denizlispor)

The 2019/20 football season is one that this former Lazio midfielder would like to put behind him. It was a season where he managed to play just nine games with no goals to show for it.

A lot was expected of this midfield enforcer when he joined Denizlispor in January after he endured Achilles heel injury at Trabzonspor, but Eddy struggled with fitness and had to come from the bench during league matches.

He had a spat with coach Bulent Uygun when he was dropped against Ankarangucu. All moves to appease the Nigerian International fell on deaf ears and he later had his contract terminated in July.

Henry Onyekuru ( Galatasaray)

Scoring just one goal in 10 matches last season wasn’t as successful as his first season with Galatasaray where he netted 14 goals from 31 league appearance plus another two in the Turkish Cup to ensure Gala won the League and Turkish Cup.

More often than not, Onyekuru was distracted by his transfer troubles with his parent club Monaco who demanded that the former Eupen striker return to the Principles at the end of his loan deal with Gala.

John Obi Mikel (Trabzonspor)

Regarded as big plus when he joined Trabzonspor last summer after being recommended by Onazi Ogenyi, the former Super Eagles skipper walked straight into the team given his wealth of expertise.

It made no difference to the former Chelsea midfield enforcer that Trabzonspor were written off as a squad of over-the-hill veterana and youngsters short of top-level know-how.

Mikel gave his best, orchestrating the team’s attack from midfield. His priorities are not as much goals and assists as regaining possession and setting attack in motion.

The former Middlesborough star featured in 19 matches for Trabzonspor with no goal account before walking out on the club during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Anthony Nwakaeme (Trabzonspor)

He was referred to as Trabzonspor’s best summer signing after the former Beer Sheva forward shocked burgundy officials with the way he quickly settled down to business.

Although Onazi deserves the credit for making his Nigeria compatriot feel at home, Nwakaeme fought his way into the team and became a club regular in the 2019/2020 season.

Nwakaeme scored 14 goals in 43 games across all competitions añd finished the season as Trabzonspor’s second top scorer behind Sorloth with 24 goals. He is still waiting for his Super Eagles recall.

Shehu Abdullahi (Bursaspor)

Yigit Oruc may be combing Europe in search of a new club for his client after the Super Eagles right full-back became a free agent this August. Shehu had a busy season with Bursaspor in the Turkish Super Lig.

Although Troost Ekong’s departure may have dealt a slight blow to his confidence, Shehu doubled his effort and featured in 31 league matches for Bursaspor, finding the net four times.

The former Anorthosis defender was so thorough that he only registered one red card throughout the season.

Cyprus

Francis Uzoho (Apoel Nicosia)

Although his season was blighted by series of injuries, when the 20 years old suffered the injury after the hour mark during Nigeria’s 1-1 friendly draw with Brazil in Singapore last year and had to be carried off on a stretcher, his chances of coming back to full action hanged in the balance.

He was later diagnosed with a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament and external meniscus. But like a Trojan, Uzoho recovered quickly and penned a 3 years deal with Cypriot side Apoel.

Having spent the last two seasons on loan at Cypriot clubs Anorthosis Famagusta and Omonia, the Nigerian international could only feature for Apoel 5 times and conceded 4 goals with 3 clean sheets as a result of his long lay-off.

South Africa

Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs)

Akpeyi may become one of the best goalkeepers in South Africa if his performance for Kaizer Chiefs is anything to go by. After his sloppy performance for the Super Eagles in AFCON 2021 qualifiers, it was no small achievement that the former Chippa United goalkeeper rose from the ashes of disappointment to become the most sought after goaltender in the ABSA Premier League.

Of all the new recruits Kaizer Chiefs ushered in last winter, the Nigeria International has proved by far the most worthy, virtually most improved throughout this season despite letting in 15 goals from 19 matches.

Signed from Chippa United in January 2019, Akpeyi won PSL Player of the Month for September/October 2019 having displaced Itumeleng Khune as Chiefs’ number one.

Saudi Arabia

Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr)

Before he was flown back to Nigeria on a private jet in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak in April, the Super Eagles skipper propelled Al Nassr to the second position on the log with 45 points from 22 games, six points adrift log leaders Al Hilal.

The league resumed on August 4 and ended on September 9 with Musa distinguishing himself as a full-blown professional who allowed his feet to do the talking.

The speedy winger who is still in search of his first goal this season had 18 appearances in the 2019/20 season with six assists.



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