The 2020/21 domestic football season ended in May and many Nigerian players were involved.
Some fought to help their teams stay in the elite divisions, many lost the battle of relegation and some had the good fortune of helping their teams book a place in the top tier.
This is the 2020/21 scorecard for some players capped by Nigeria; those on the fringes who have been called up at one point and those who have lost their places in the team because of poor performances.
According to UEFA, these are the top 15 football leagues in Europe: England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Russia, Belgium, Austria, Scotland, Ukraine, Turkey, Denmark, and Cyprus.
Looking at the composition of all the football teams in these 15 countries shows Nigeria has 53 players featuring. This comprises 22 in the top five European leagues and the rest in the next 10 rated leagues. The Turkish league has the highest number of 13.
CIES Football Index, gave an overall index that is computed based on “the statistics of players in six areas of the game: rigour, recovery, distribution, take on, chance creation, and shooting.”
In the top five leagues, Napoli’s Victor Osimhen had the highest overall index, 82.
But outside the top five, Genk’s Paul Onuachu has to be the standout Nigerian player for the 2020/21 season after scoring 33 league goals in 38 appearances. The lanky forward won the Ebony Award and will seek a chance in one of the top five leagues. It was also a great season for Leicester City duo – Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi.
In the CIES ranking, Ndidi had 79 while Iheanacho had 80. In the areas computed, Ndidi scored the highest in recovery and distribution-76 and 69 while Iheanacho had the highest marks in chance creation and shooting – 74 and 84.
Worthy mentions must go to Terem Moffi, who scored 15 league goals for Lorient and helped them stave off relegation. Maduka Okoye also deserves mentions as he appeared 29 times for Sparta Rotterdam in the Eredivisie and kept 10 clean sheets-conceding an average of one goal per game. Sparta subsequently named him as their player of the season.
Not-so-great or average
Though he did not have a standout season, Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze helped his side to win the Europa League – a feat which qualified the seventh-placed Yellow Submarine for next season’s UEFA Champions League. Chukwueze scored four league goals and contributed two assists but that has been the state of the 22-year-old over the last three seasons since he became a regular at Villarreal.
Taiwo Awoniyi is another who falls into this category. A 2013 U-17 World Cup winner, he did not pull out any threes with his five goals in 21 league appearances. Though he is still under contract with Liverpool, it does not look like that association will continue for much longer.
Another player who featured in the Bundesliga and will hope for a better 2021/22 season is Emmanuel Dennis, who just signed for Watford.
We expected the diminutive forward to explode in the last season but he failed to score a single league goal for both Club Brugge and FC Koln. At 23, there is still time but not much of it. His form has been so poor that he failed to win a squad call-up to the Super Eagles.
Poor is relative, and I juxtaposed this analysis with past performances. If Everton’s Alex Iwobi were to mark himself for the 2020/21 season, he can’t [truthfully] score himself above 5/10.
Two goals and three assists in 36 appearances in all competitions was an abysmal return, and he started 18 EPL games on the bench.
An article on Iwobi in HITC explains the 25-year-old’s dilemma perfectly.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if a player like Iwobi is moved on this summer because Everton’s squad needs refreshing and their 2019 signing [$40 million] hasn’t exactly done anything which is worthy of keeping him on.”
Oghenekaro Etebo is another Super Eagles midfielder, who had a below-average performance with Galatasaray. The midfield tyro played 29 matches across all competitions as Galatasaray ended the season in second place – losing out to Besiktas on goal difference.
Etebo ended the season with no goals and no assists. His loan move to Watford is an adroit move because he is at a club where he can get a foothold and show all of his qualities.
The next hurdle for all these players is to find the next gear to take their football careers up a notch in the 2021/22 season that kicks off in a few weeks.