European football is back! After a two month suspension, the German Bundesliga returns this weekend and the English Premier League, Italian Serie A and Spanish La Liga may not be far behind in June. In celebration of that, we took a look at some of the Nigerian football stars plying their trade in Europe to keep an eye on as the leagues return and in the summer transfer window.
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City) – English Premier League
“I think he’s the best in the Premier League at tackling and winning the ball back, bar none…” – James Maddison
Our first Nigerian player to watch is Leicester City Midfielder Wilfred Ndidi.
Brought in as a replacement for the tireless Kante by the Leicester board in 2017, the 23-year-old Ndidi has proven to be a star in his own right in that Leicester team and is without question the most-rounded holding midfielder in the Premier League. Jamie Vardy may have the goals and Maddison the assists but Ndidi is that indispensable cog that keeps the wheels of the Foxes turning. His importance to the team is highlighted by the fact that of the six matches Ndidi missed through injury, Leicester managed to win only once. He was also recently named by Sky Sports as the 2019/2020 MVP of the Leicester City squad.
Up next could be a well-deserved inclusion in the Premier League Team of the Season and a big-money move to a team in desperate need of a holding midfielder (CC Arsenal or Juventus) but what is undeniable is that Ndidi is one to watch.
Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua) (On Loan to Manchester United) – English Premier League
“He’s a different type of striker – a proven goal scorer, a physical presence,” – Solskjaer
Our next football star to watch is Manchester United loanee and record-breaker Odion Jude Ighalo.
The “Favour over Labour” striker has been impressive since his January signing by Manchester United as a backup striker to Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. United had been extensively criticised for signing the 30-year-old forward who had spent the previous three years of his career in China, but he quickly shut down the criticisms by banging in four goals in his first eight outings for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side before the 2019-20 campaign was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Ighalo is currently due to return to Shanghai Shenhua at the end of May but it is our hope that Manchester United shells out the measly £20m to sign him permanently so he continues to ply his trade in the Premier League and thrilling Nigerian and Manchester United fans alike. Keep an eye on him when the season returns. A couple more crucial goals in the league for a United team chasing a Champions League spot or in the Europa League winning Ole his first piece of silverware and Ighalo might earn himself his place at Old Trafford.
Victor Osimhen (Lille) – French Ligue 1
“My goal is to play at one of the biggest clubs in the world”- Victor Osimhen
Our final football star to watch is 21-year-old Lille star Victor Osimhen.
Sadly this is not one to watch on the pitch with the cancellation of the French Ligue 1 season but in the summer transfer window. Alongside Timo Werner, Moussa Dembele, and Sancho, Osimhen is on a shortlist of young strikers with immense potential ready to take the next step to a higher level in a world-class team. Due to the financial implications of the coronavirus outbreak on the summer transfer budgets, Osimhen might be seen by top clubs as a budget friendlier signing than his peers.
The 21-year-old has been in impressive form for his French club during the 2019-20 campaign, scoring 18 times in 38 appearances in all competitions with reports claiming interest from Liverpool, Tottenham, Inter Milan, and Chelsea and that Lille had received an offer of £75m for the Nigeria international. A potential Harry Kane exit from Spurs could open the door and Mourinho with his well-documented love for African strikers could take Osimhen to the next level.