Saturday, February 24, 2024

Top Nigerian Performers In 2023/24 Season

In the 2023/24 season, Nigerian footballers have been making headlines across various leagues, showcasing their exceptional talent and proving themselves as key players for their respective teams. From Serie A to the Premier League, from the Bundesliga to the Saudi Women’s League, these Nigerian athletes have been nothing short of remarkable.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the standout performers who have soared to new heights and are making their marks this season

Victor Boniface (Bayer Leverkusen, Bundesliga)

Leverkusen’s best signing of the summer and possibly the best signing in Europe beaten perhaps by only Jude Bellingham, Boniface has been in fine form for Bayer Leverkusen, scoring 10 goals in 13 appearances across all competitions.

The most in-form Nigerian in Europe, Boniface has been the most exciting youngster in the Bundesliga, picking up the Bundesliga Rookie of the Month awards for August and September.

Victor Osimhen (Napoli, Serie A)

Osimhen has been in fine form for Napoli, scoring six goals in eight appearances in the Serie A. He has picked up his form from last season when he secured the Italian league golden boot award.

The 24-year-old has forged a reputation as one of Europe’s most exciting strikers after scoring 26 goals in 32 league games last season as Napoli secured their first Serie A title since 1990.

Although, sidelined with an injury he suffered on international duty in a friendly against Saudi Arabia in October, the Nigeria international is still joint-second on the Serie A topscorers list behind only Lautaro Martinez who has scored 11.

Taiwo Awoniyi (Nottingham Forest, Premier League)

Awoniyi has been a revelation for Nottingham Forest, with five goal contributions in eight appearances in the English Premier League. The 26-year-old has scored three goals and also chipped in with two assists.

Last season, Awoniyi was pivotal as the Tricky Trees avoided relegation scoring 10 goals and providing one assist in 27 appearances. The forward has hit the ground running again this season and is proving to be a valuable asset for Nottingham Forest.

Akor Adams (Montpellier Herault, Ligue 1)

Adams has been a standout performer for Montpellier Herault and has hit the ground running in Ligue 1 since his €4.5m move from Lillestrom in the summer.

With seven goals in 10 league appearances, the former Nigeria U-20 striker is second only to France captain, Kylian Mbappe, who comfortably sits at the top of the scoring chart with 10 goals from nine appearances.

With Nigeria initiating their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers next month, against Lesotho and Zimbabwe, and star striker Osimhen recovering from an injury, there is a possibility for Adams to receive his first call-up from Eagles coach Jose Peseiro.

Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, Championship)

Ndidi has been a consistent performer for Leicester City, playing a crucial role in the team’s midfield. Playing in a more advanced No.8 role under Enzo Maresca has seen the Nigerian midfielder become more of a creative force for the Foxes.

After 12 league games this season, Ndidi has contributed four goals (three assists and a goal) for the Foxes. Only Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Kelechi Iheanacho, Jamie Vardy and Kasey McAteer have more goal contributions than the former Genk midfielder this season.

In the EFL Cup, Ndidi also contributed to three goals in three games with two goals and one assist.

Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, Championship)

Iheanacho has been in fine form for Leicester City, scoring six goals in 17 appearances across all competitions. He has also contributed two assists and has been a key player for the team.

Last season, Iheanacho scored five goals and provided five assists in 28 appearances in the Premier League as the Foxes were relegated. However, he has been a bright spark in the team leading their return to the English topflight.

Moses Simon (Nantes FC, Ligue 1)

Simon has been a key player for FC Nantes this season, with two goals and five assists in 10 appearances in the French Ligue 1. The 28-year-old was named Nantes’ Player of the Month for October after he won a vote by the fans of the Canaries.

With 39.67% of the votes, Simon saw off competition from Florent Mollet (28.6%), Pedro Chirivella (20.75%) and Marcus Coco ((10.98%).) to claim Nantes’ Player of the Month prize.

According to stats from the official website of the Ligue 1,  Simon has notched five assists in 805 minutes of action, the best in the French top flight this term, together with Florian Sotoca (Lens) and Caio Henrique (Monaco).

Gift Orban (Gent, Belgian First Division A)

Orban has been impressive for Gent, scoring seven goals in 17 appearances in the Belgian Pro League and has been nominated in the Young Player of the Year category of the upcoming CAF Awards.

The 21-year-old forward joined the Buffalos from Norwegian lower-tier side Stabaek in January, and he has been a revelation since then. Orban has registered 27 goals and two assists in 38 games for Gent.

Alex Iwobi (Fulham, Premier League)

Iwobi has been a consistent performer for Fulham, playing a crucial role in the team’s midfield. He has made nine appearances in the Premier League this season with two for Everton before his deadline day move to the Coattagers.

Iwobi has shown bright sparks with his dribbling and aggressive ball-carrying and has also found the back of the net once in two Carabao Cup appearances.

Tobias Lawal (LASK, Austrian Bundesliga)

Lawal has been very impressive for his Austrian Bundelisga side, LASK. Despite not having the best of protection in defence, Lawal has kept six clean sheets while conceding only seven goals from 12 games.

The 23-year-old stands at 1.95m with great agility, command in the air and the ability to use his feet very well. These strengths came to the fore in a 3-1 Europa League loss to Liverpool where he had a very decent showing.

Noah Atubolu (Freiburg, Bundesliga)

Atubolu has been a consistent performer for Freiburg, playing a crucial role as the number one shotstopper. Overall he’s featured in 12 matches this season, conceding 19 goals and keeping four clean sheets.

Bundesliga.com hints at similarities between the up-and-coming goalie with Germany great Manuel Neuer.

“We’re not saying the Freiburg youngster is the ‘next Manuel Neuer’ — the Bayern Munich and Germany goalkeeper-revolutionary is arguably the game’s greatest-ever in his position — but there are some similarities,” the website stated.

Ashleigh Plumptre (Al-Ittihad, Saudi Women’s League)

Plumptre has been a standout performer for Al-Ittihad as one of the best players in the defence for the Saudi side.

She began her Ittihad career in stunning style, scoring a hat-trick on debut against Dammam’s Eastern Flames FC. Three games into the season, Ittihad sit top of the eight-team table after drawing their second match 2-2 with Al Qadsiah and winning their third game on Friday 1-0 over Al Shabab.

She became the fourth Nigerian to score a hat-trick in Saudi after Rashidi Yekini, Ahmed Musa, and Odion Ighalo.

Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash, NWSL)

Alozie has been in superb form for Houston Dash, scoring four goals in 17 appearances in the National Women’s Soccer League. She has also contributed one assist and has been a key player for the team.

Alozie’s talents took centre stage at 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The 26-year-old was part of a Nigerian team that defeated Australia and outplayed finalists England in the round of 16 stage though they eventually lost on penalties to the Three Lionesses.

Chiamaka Nnadozie (Paris FC, Division 1 Feminine)

Nnadozie has been one of the shining stars for Paris FC in goal making penalty saves across all competitions. She has made five appearances in Division 1 Feminine this season and has saved three penalties this season.

In October, Nnnadozie helped Paris FC make history after guiding them to the group stage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time with an impressive performance to knock out last season’s runners-up Wolfsburg 2-0.

The 22-year-old shots-stopper denied Dominique Janssen from the spot as the French side held on to the win.

In September also, in the first round of the playoffs, Nnadozie also superbly stopped two spot kicks in the shootout win against Arsenal.

Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico de Madrid, Primera Division)

Ajibade has been in fine form for Atletico de Madrid and the Nigeria national team. Ajibade captained the Super Falcons over the two legs of the Olympic qualifiers against Ethiopia, and she did not disappoint.

The 23-year-old scored the equaliser to earn Nigeria a 1-1 draw in the first leg. She then scored a brace in the second leg to secure a 4-0 win as Nigeria advanced in the qualifiers.

In August, Ajibade was also pivotal as Atletico Madrid beat AC Milan Feminine 1-0 to emerge victorious in the Women’s Cup final. Ajibade provided the crucial assist to Santos in added time, who clinched the title for Atletico Madrid.

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