The English Premier League is the most-watched football league in Nigeria and they follow their teams with fevered passion. The big four-Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea do not have any Nigerian in their ranks presently but there are some players-both old and young, seeking to lay down markers; quieten the naysayers, while the others just need consistency.
Here are 11 Nigerians to watch out for as the season kicks off on Friday, August 13 with Frank Onyeka’s Brentford testing the EPL waters with a clash against Arsenal, with Folarin Balogun, who are seeking to get back at the top table.
Arsenal – Folarin BALOGUN (20)
This Anglo-Nigerian is another prospect for the Super Eagle and was in demand in Europe when he was holding out to signing a new Arsenal contract. Now signed up for ??? years, Balogun showed glimpses of his talent in the Europa League where he was featured five times and he scored once and provided two assists.
Transfer market values him at Euros 4 million.
Brentford – Frank ONYEKA (23)
Onyeka has started strongly with Brentford as he scored in a 2-1 win over Valencia in a friendly. The powerful box-to-box midfielder showcased his talent in last season’s Champions League and helped FC Midtjylland to the group stages.
He played 10 matches in the UEFA Champions League and scored once whilst also providing one assist. Onyeka has been capped once by Nigeria, but he will seek to add more caps with his performances for the Bees.
Transfer Market values him at Euros $5 million.
Crystal Palace – Eberechi EZE (23)
Amaju Pinnick, the Nigeria Football Federation boss, has not given up on Eze which is why he is included in this list. It was a productive season for the midfield dazzler, as he provided some memorable moments of skill.
He played 34 games for the Eagles and scored four goals, providing six assists. He got injured in May and there is no timeline for his resumption of training or playing under the new manager, Patrick Vieira.
Transfer market values him at $24 million.
Everton – Alex IWOBI (25)
If there is an important season-a make or break moment, then this is it for Iwobi. The Arsenal fledgling is now a mature man-having played in the EPL for the last seven seasons.
Last season, Iwobi struggled to make any significant contribution under the management of Carlo Ancelotti and at a point, their relationship descended into innuendos and rebuttals. He has another chance to start afresh under Rafa Benitez but he will be assured that as soon as he falls in rating, he will be a constant bench-warmer.
In the 2020/21 season, Iwobi made 30 league appearances, scoring just once and providing two assists. His shot accuracy was a dismal 20%, meaning he will have to work really hard on the training ground to improve his conversion rate.
Transfer market values him at $26 million.
Leicester City – Wilfred NDIDI (24)
Ndidi is so good and humble in his game, it is daunting. Many EPL followers have touted the defensive midfielder to one of the big four for the past three transfer windows but the leggy player starts his sixth season at Leicester, hoping to continue to prove once again that he is good enough for any top-four side in Europe’s top five leagues.
Last season, Ndidi was at the heart of the Foxes defence and midfield and contributed in no small measure to a first-ever FA Cup triumph. In the season opener against Manchester City last Saturday, he took top marks as Leicester added the Community Shield to their array of accomplishments in the last five seasons.
Ndidi made the fourth-most tackles in the EPL with 96 from 26 appearances. He also provided four assists and scored one goal to come in fifth at the end of the season.
Transfer Market values him at $70 million.
Leicester City – Kelechi IHEANACHO (24)
Senior man Kels was the cynosure of all eyes last Saturday as he rose off the bench to win the penalty and score to help Leicester City to their second-ever Community Shield triumph.
Iheanacho finished last season as his team’s top scorer. From February to May, the U-17 World Cup winner was on fire and justified his inclusion. This season, he not only has Jamie Vardy to fight for a place against but also with the arrival of the speedy Patson Daka.
Can he continue to score despite limited minutes or will he finally have the full confidence of Brendan Rodgers to become the Foxes’ first-choice striker?
Transfer Market values him at $24 million.
Southampton – Nathan TELLA (22)
Another of the bright prospects being eyed by Pinnick and his NFF, the 22-year-old all-rounder had more playing time towards the end of last season.
He played as a winger, deep midfielder, striker in 18 games in which he scored once and provided one assist.
Transfer Market values at $2.3 million him.
Watford – William Troost-Ekong (27)
One stalwart of the Watford side who won promotion from the Championship and a dream come true for the defender, born in the Netherlands.
If the Hornets will stay in the EPL, the former Udinese defender will have a lot to do. Last season, he played 32 games and scored one goal.
Transfer Market values at $4.7 million him.
Watford – Oghenekaro ETEBO (25)
Etebo’s game has tailed off, but he finds himself afforded a significant chance to get back in the reckoning of many who swooned over his performances for the Nigeria U-23 team to the Rio Olympics.
He lost his way from Stoke City to Getafe and then to Galatasaray, who opted against signing him at the end of last season.
Transfer Market values him at $3.7 million.
Watford – Isaac SUCCESS (25)
How long will Isaac go without success? The robust, agile, and powerful forward played only 10 games in the Championship and scored one goal.
This could be a season of serious consequence for the U-17 World Cup winner. At 25, he may not get too many more chances as his value continues to plummet.
In December 2018, he was worth about $7 million, but he is worth about $2 million by Transfer Market.
Watford – Emmanuel DENNIS (23)
Will Dennis finally find a home at Watford? Will he showcase the immense talent that showed up against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2019?
Last season, first at Club Brugge and on loan at FC Koln, he registered no goal in 18 league appearances.
Transfer Market values him at about $6 million.
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