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.
Like their counterparts across the world, Nigerian players were in the thick of the action, but, as it would always be the case, it was mixed fortunes for them, in their various teams.
PREMIUM TIMES looks at performances of Nigerian players, in what has been the longest season ever, across many countries.
Alex Iwobi (Everton)
One goal in 25 matches is certainly off the mark for a player bought for €30m pounds from Arsenal last summer. After he turned down the chance to extend his stay at the Emirates, Coach Marcos Silva brought in the 24-year old winger for versatility on the wings, with his much valuable bundle of toughness, tactical culture, and drive.
But Iwobi failed to fully convince fans or pundits that he was worth the millions splashed on him.
His poor form, coupled with a series of injuries, means Carlo Ancelotti would not be patient with the young Nigerian, who could be involved in the Everton swap deal to sign Wilfred Zaha this summer.
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)
Ndidi was very much the flavour of the 2019/20 season in England, lauded as Leicester City linchpin and the thinking man holding midfielder. He had desire, strength, and tenacity to burn and his tandem with cerebral James Maddison and Youri Tielemans was one of the Foxes most significant assets last season.
Ndidi may have scored two goals and one assist in 32 matches in Leicester colours last season, but his inestimable contributions are faultless.
— Ndidi Wilfred (@Ndidi25) April 8, 2020
Yes, Leicester City may have missed out on Champions League football but kudos must go to Ndidi nonetheless for finishing the season as one of the best defensive midfielders in England and Europe
Kelechi Iheancho (Leicester City)
He struggled to tie down a regular shirt at Leicester but was a regular figure during Cup matches last season.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) May 29, 2020
With five goals and four assists in 20 matches, Iheanacho rediscovered his mojo as hostilities resumed after the COVID-19 lockdown, but it was a little too late for the former Manchester City striker, who could probably end up with Aston Villa next season.
Isaac Success (Watford)
He had a quiet season with Watford where he played five matches in all competitions throughout last season with no goal to show for it.
Success became surplus to requirements after Watford parted ways with Coach Quique Sanchez Flores last December. Watford were later relegated to the Championship.
Semi Ajayi (West Brom)
Semi was one of the big guns of the 2019/20 season after his hard work and performance proved to be a rip-roaring success as West Brom gained promotion to the EPL.
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) August 6, 2020
The Super Eagles defender had a dream debut with the Baggies, making 43 appearances in the Championship with five goals to his credit.
Leon Balogun (Wigan)
Leon managed to put his dwindling career back on the right path after he failed to break into the first team at Brighton for two seasons.
His loan stint at Wigan was the saving grace for the former Mainz central defender where he played 13 matches with no goal to his credit.
I also want to say thank you and goodbye to Paul Cook and his staff, the team and the whole Tics Family @LaticsOfficial It’s been a very short & super intense time and I’m happy to have played my part in it. pic.twitter.com/2wevYd8zGc
— Leon Balogun (@LeonBalogun) July 23, 2020
Leon’s hard work eventually paid off with a dream summer move to Scottish Premier League champions, Glasgow Rangers under the watchful eyes of coach Steven Gerrard.
Joe Aribo (Rangers)
One thing that looked certain among Rangers’ fans last season was that Aribo will start come what may. His description by the club’s fans as “hungry Lion” speaks volumes of his predatory qualities in the opponents’ box.
Thanks to his athleticism, comfort on the ball, strong panache, and insatiable hunger for goal. Aribo is everything Steven G wants in a striker.
Joe made 27 appearances, scoring three goals with eight assists for Rangers last season. But there is more to come from the dreadlocked striker who loves to bless himself repeatedly after scoring goals.
Young player of the season 🏆
Goal of the season 🥇
Thanks to God 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/AkZF231uaT
— Joe Aribo (@J_Aribo19) July 31, 2020
He recently claimed two huge awards at the club Gala Award after he was named Rangers Young Player of the Year and the winner of the Goal of the Season award.
Samuel Chukwueze (Villareal)
Samu is referred to as Laliga “chico nuevo en el bloque” ( new kid on the block) by Spanish reporters because of the way he glued the ball to his feet.
Running with the ball at pace, providing good service and cutting in to carry a goal threat, Chukwueze’s club display in 4-4 draw against Barcelona in the 20199/20 season earned him much accolades all over Europe and he’s top on the priority list of Europe heavyweights.
+3 💛💛💪🙏❤️ pic.twitter.com/QHeWih0juo
— Samuel chukwueze (@chukwueze_8) September 28, 2019
Although Villareal season’s success owed much to the work ethic and sense of sacrifice of defensive midfielder Vicente Iborra, Samu was the thorn in the flesh of Laliga defenders last season.
It was no surprise that the AFCON 2019 Bronze winner scored three goals with five assists in 37 matches for The Yellow Submarine.
Azeez Ramon (Granada)
Because of his flair for gamesmanship and capacity for the sly, the provocative, midfielder maestro does not always receive the credit his abilities deserve even with Nigeria senior national team.
The bottom line though, is that he is good at his job, an expert at plugging gaps, solving tactical problems, and linking defensive and attacking phases in Granada colour.
He had a great season with Granada and his ability to hit the right notes last season ensured Granada finished in seventh place on the log. An integral part of the team, Ramon played 25 matches with two goals to his credit.
Oghenekaro Etebo (Getafe)
Multidimensional work in central midfield of Getafe by Etebo ensured that the club finished as 8th best club in Spanish Laliga. In his first season at Getafe, Etebo’s tenacity as a ball winner, a good passer and a possessor of fitness made him a full package for the club.
— Etebo Karo (@etebo_karo) June 20, 2020
He seemed even more determined and hungry, following Jorge’s Boladas decision to give freedom to express himself. It was a successful loan stint for Etebo, who featured in 20 matches, scoring one goal.
Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes)
Omeruo has been touring Europe since joining Chelsea in June 2019, and sadly enough he has not been rewarded by the London side for his hard work despite being armed to the teeth with long years of experience.
— Kenneth Omeruo (@omeruo22) June 12, 2020
The former Kasimpasa loanee scored one goal in 23 appearances but it was not enough to keep Leganes in Laliga.
Chidozie Awaziem (Leganes)
This widely travelled defender sacrificed a lot to ensure Leganes avoided the drop, but those efforts proved a little too late as Real Madrid confined the cucumber grower to relegation after four seasons in the Spanish top flight.
— C.D. Leganés 🇺🇸🇬🇧🇦🇺 (@CDLeganes_en) May 27, 2020
Awaziem was in action 26 times for Leganes but it was a loan which ended in futility, but the former FC Nantes would not be forgotten easily by Leganes fans.
Kelechi Nwakali (Huesca)
Extremely mature and tactically aware for a 22-year-old, Huesca midfield sentinel Kelechi Nwakali is one the reason why the in-form Segunda all-conquering Huesca side can use any system and never miss a beat.
Nwakali joined Huesca on a three-year deal in January, after spending three miserable years playing for different clubs in Europe as a loanee.
He may have played only five matches for Huesca without scoring any goal, but his arrival helped restore life back to Huesca midfield. As proficient in the attacking department as he is pressing, shadowing, heading, and passing, he served as a security blanket and distribution hub for the midfielders, always on the move, always in the right place.
Nwakali has finally come of age and much is expected of the young man when Huesca face the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona next season.
Victor Moses (Inter Milan)
Not wanted by Chelsea manager Frank Lampard after his loan stint with Fenerbahce, Moses was determined to prove the Blues manager wrong. He then teamed up with his former boss, Antonio Conte at Inter Milan during the January window transfer in a desperate bid to return to top-flight football.
It was a decision that turned his career around as Conte adopted his style of playing a right full-back as sole man to run down the flanks.
Derby winners! What a feeling! 💪🏿 pic.twitter.com/Dfz1StLben
— Victor Moses (@VictorMoses) February 10, 2020
Pegged back by a series of injuries, the former Fenerbahce star had 12 appearances in Nerrazzuris colour with just five assists to his credit as Inter narrowly lost the scudetto to Juventus.
Ola Aina (Torino)
He was a topic of discussion among Udinese chieftains, who had contemplated offloading the young defender. But Aina doubled his effort and reclaimed his place in the team and had 32 appearances with two assists.
— olaoluwa aina (@Aina2Ola) July 14, 2020
Either playing as right or left full-back, Ola was a thorn in the flesh of defenders and he grew in confidence under Torino manager, Moreno Longo.
William Troost- Ekong (Udinese)
Signed from Bursaspor to help steady the ship in the heart of Udinese defence but the fair-skinned Super Eagles defender could not do much as Little Zebra conceded 51 goals to finish 13th on the Serie A table.
Ekong featured in 30 league matches with no goal accounts to his credit. He, however, did well to bag five yellow cards throughout the season.
— William Troost-Ekong (@WTroostEkong) August 3, 2020
His biggest test came in Udinese 2-2 draw with eventual Serie A champions Juventus in an exciting encounter at Dacia Arena last July.
Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone)
Another big hit of the season after he dug deeply into his scoring books to ensure Crotone gained promotion to Italian Series.
Simy was the man of the season, bagging a brace in Crotone 5-1 win over Livorno to confirm their place among Seria A big boys after Spezia failed to beat Cremonese last month.
The Pythagorean had Simy to thank for his pace, strength, and balance. It was no small achievement for this fringe Super Eagles striker who netted 20 league goals to seal promotion for Cortone.
With 20 goals, Nigerian International, #SimyNwankwo is the top scorer of the Italian Serie B 2020.
He beat Iemmello Pietro of Perugia who ended with 19 goals.
— RALPH Chidozie George (@ralphcgeorge) August 1, 2020
It will be interesting to see how this towering striker rubs shoulders with the likes of Ronaldo, Osimhen and Lukaku in the Seria A next season.
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