The back-to-back victory by the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria in
the FIFA U-17 World Cup is an indication that the country has a large
pool of talents within that age grade. Here are top 10 most promising
Nigerian young footballers now giving a good account of themselves in
various leagues across Europe.
1. Kelechi Iheanacho
Playing alongside such star
players as Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Davis Silva and others in the
Manchester City team speaks volume of Iheanacho’s talent.
With the few playing time he is getting at the club, the player
adjudged as the Most Valuable Player at the Under-17 Youth Championship
held at the United Arab Emirate in 2013 has scored five goals with
breathtaking assists that have seen Man City fans singing praises of the
young Nigerian. He is always comfortable with the ball anywhere behind
the main striker, on the flanks or even when he leads himself. Kelechi
is no doubt one of the gifted talents to have ever come out of the
Nigerian shore in recent time.
2. Sadiq Umar
He announced himself to the big
stage when he scored a beautiful goal in the Serie A for AS Roma.
Reading William Vainqueur’s cross to perfection, the young Nigerian took
out five defenders to plant home an emphatic header past Mattia Perin
in goal for Genoa.
The 20-year-old Umar got his first team game time for a top club
like AS Roma and even scored two goals in his three appearances. He is
proving his goal scoring exploits at SC Spezia (where he scored a record
breaking 26 goals in 27 games in the Italian youth league), which made
Roma came for him, are no fluke. A tall and lanky forward, Umar has been
likened to the legendary Nwankwo Kanu.
3. Isaac Success
Playing regular top-flight
football for Granada and featuring week in week out for a 1st division
team in Spain against super stars like Ronaldo and Messi and some of the
best defenders in the world is indeed a remarkable achievement for the
Isaac has scored three goals and is the livewire of Granada FC. He is
comfortable playing as the main striker but is also effective playing
wide a little. A strong, skillful and speedy striker likened to a young
Samuel Eto’o. Isaac is a gem in the making and it is only a matter of
time before he rises above struggling Granada FC of Spain.
4. Alex Iwobi
He plays with a top English Premier
League team like Arsenal filled with world-class players. For the 21-year-old Nigerian international to be considered for a place on the
bench in the Gunners conveys his quality.
Iwobi has made the Arsenal team roster eight times this season and
started against Sunderland in the FA Cup where he received a standing
ovation from the Highbury faithful.
He made an even bigger impression in the game against Stoke, where he
came on for Theo Walcott in the last 20 minutes. Highly rated by
Wenger, the Frenchman has refused to loan him out. Iwobi has the ability
to play from a variety of wide positions as well as in the middle
behind a striker and is capable of reading the game better. Iwobi is the
nephew of the great Jay Jay Okocha.
5. Moses Simon
He is an electrifying winger with
smooth ball control, immense pace and exquisite dribbling skills. He
almost signed for Ajax Amsterdam in 2013 scoring for them in pre-season
games before eventually signing for AS Trencin in 2014 where he was
snapped up by Belgian Elite division club, Gent.
In only his first season for Gent, Simon scored seven goals and had
numerous assists on their way to finishing second, which qualified them
for the Champions League. At 20, the potential is frightening, as some
EPL’s top clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham, are said to be showing
6. Wilifred Ndidi
was one of the first players among the 2015 U-20 class to sign for a
club abroad, when he was snapped up by Racing Genk.
He wasted little time before he broke into the first team and has 18
appearances for the modest Belgian club, posting a great performance
despite being moved from his traditional centre back to defensive
Ndidi recently scored his first professional goal for Genk from his
defensive midfield position against Zulte-Waregem. He was one of the few
players who stood out for the Nigerian U-20 during a dismal outing at
the World Cup in New Zealand. A budding talent, Ndidi, is comfortable as
a centre back, anywhere along the back four or even as a defensive
7. Taiwo Awoniyi
Injury to Isaac Success at the
2013 U-17 World Cup at UAE gave Awoniyi an opportunity to prove his
worth. He took it with both hands scoring four goals as Nigeria went on
to win the cup.
Awoniyi has not looked back since becoming the top striker for the
U-20 team scoring breathtaking goals in the African U-20 tournament in
Senegal and even going on to replicate his goal scoring exploits for the
A tall gangling striker in the likes of late Rashidi Yekini, Awoniyi
is blessed with an eye for goal, good sense of positioning and
exceptional hold up play. He eventually got his reward after being
snapped up by Liverpool of England from where he has been loaned to
Frankfurt of Germany to gain experience. It’s only a matter of time
before his talent returns him to the English top flight football.
8. Kelechi Nwakali
The word wonder kid has been
thrown around loosely most times. The MVP and Golden Ball winner at
Chile 2015 U-17 World Cup, Nwakali was without any doubt the engine room
and the driving force behind the victorious Golden Eaglets.
A brutal enforcer and instigator of attacks with silky and sublime
ball touches, Nwakali shone like a million star in Chile with three
goals and three assists. He has been likened to Arsenal’s great, Patrick
Viera and four times African footballer of the year award winner, Yaya
Toure. He is close to joining Arsenal.
9. Victor Osimhen
He announced himself to the
world in a fantastic way after breaking all previous goal scoring
records and emerging the highest goal scorer ever in the history of the
U-17 World Cup championship with 11 goals in Chile. More importantly was
the manner Osimhen took his goals at the tournament.
He is being touted to take after the goal father, Rashidi Yekini, due
to his playing style. Osimhen topped his achievement by mixing up with
the big boys and giving a good account of himself in the national U-23
Olympic team. He seems set to sign a contract with Wolfsburg in Germany.
10. Ifeanyi Matthews
Another star player of the
2013 U-17 Golden Eaglets squad. While Iheancho, Success and Awoniyi
hogged the headlines, Matthews, alongside Abiodun Idowu were the
unheralded stars doing their jobs quietly but effectively in the middle.
Matthews shone at the African U-20 tourney in Senegal scoring two breathtaking goals as well as setting up three assists.
His form dropped a little due to a foot injury at the World Cup and
he did not make the cut for Siasia’s team, but he is back holding his
own with the home-based Eagles. At the CHAN in Rwanda, he emerged as one
of the stars. Matthews is a versatile player, combining well as
attacking or defensive midfielder.