There are a lot of Nigerian players in Europe; players plying their trade on the biggest football-merchandising continent, from the big leagues to the deep ends. While some had outstanding games and memorable milestones, some had a weekend to forget. Who are the Nigerian players that did well in the past match-week? Who are the players that need to find their mojo?
Arguably, the biggest achiever this past weekend was Watford’s William Troost Ekong, who sealed a promotion to the premier league at the first attempt. Watford, whose biggest contribution last season was bringing Liverpool’s blistering unbeaten run to a screeching halt, couldn’t escape the clutches of relegation. The Hertfordshire side has, however, made an incredible comeback to the premier league, as they cemented second place in the Championship after a slim 1-0 win over mid-table Millwall. Troost Ekong made the controversial move from Udinese where he was a regular first-team player, and despite the apprehension from a lot of Nigerian fans, he managed to slot in well at the Watford side to become an integral part of the team. He has made 38 appearances out of 44 in the Championship this season.
Centre-back Semi Ajayi did not make a very decent pairing with Kyle Bartley for relegation-threatened West Bromwich Albion, as they let in two goals from Aston Villa. Semi Ajayi gave away a penalty in the opening embers of the game; a penalty that El Ghazi was sure to tuck behind the net. West Brom, however, fought back and had to settle for a 2-2 draw which dented their hopes of staying in the premier league this season, as they sit 8 points away from safety.
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If Samuel Chukwueze could play against Barcelona every day of his life, he’d surely opt for that because since he broke onto the scene in 2018, the fleet-footed Nigerian forward has always been too hot to handle for the Blaugrana men. Chukwueze scored a peach of a goal against Barcelona after a sensational turn away from Gerard Pique, albeit a slip from the defender, he made a quick dash and rounded the keeper brilliantly before slotting home from a tight angle. The 21-year-old now has three goals from three La Liga matches.
Also in Spain, Nigeria under-17 prodigy, Kelechi Nwakali, turned up for his Alcoron side with a goal, but it wasn’t enough to claim the points, as promotion-chasers, Leganes 一 who have Kenneth Omeruo in their books though unlisted due to suspension 一 beat them with a 1-2 scoreline. The midfield maestro, who is now 22, has had a turbulent career; he’s found it hard to pin down a starting shirt in any club but he has been quite impressive for Alcoron since he joined them at winter and he’ll look to be instrumental for Alcoron who are battling relegation from the Spanish La Liga 2. Alcoron sit one point away from safety.
Red-hot striker, Simy Nwankwo, unargauably one of the best Nigerian players in Europe, was again on target last time out. Though on a struggling side, Simy Nwankwo has been the shining light in his Crotone team this season. 28-year-old Simy added two goals to his 17 goals tally this season, after netting two during the club’s last two games; one in a defeat to Udinese, and the other from the spot against Parma. The lanky forward, who has struggled to break into the Super Eagles fold, would surely give Rohr a headache when he wants to make his team selection. Due to his incredible form, Simy Nwankwo has been the subject of a lot of transfer talks this season and if there’s one thing that’s sure, it is that he isn’t going down with Crotone.
French-side, Nantes, who have Moses Simeon on their books, will look up to the Nigerian forward as they try to evade relegation from the Ligue 1 this season. Moses Simeon featured in their 1-2 away win at Strasbourg; that win took them to 4 points off safety. The forward who is an integral part of the team couldn’t find the back of the net but he played 80minutes and was quite solid going forward.
Nigeria and Sparta Rotterdam first-choice goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, was one of the top-performing Nigerian players in Europe this week. He was in-between the sticks for his Dutch side as they saw off VVV Venlo with a 3-0 scoreline. Maduka Okoye was instrumental to the club’s clean sheet, with three great saves to deny his opponents from scoring a goal. The clean sheet would be a confidence booster for the twenty-one-year-old shot stopper. Maduka Okoye has improved rapidly in the last six months and he’ll look to secure the trust of Nigerian fans who are In doubt of his quality.
In Turkey, Nigerian midfield dynamo, Oghenekaro Etebo, was very solid for his team-building Galatasaray, as they picked up a one – nil win, away at Antalyaspor. He put up a good show in the defensive midfield position and his team kept a clean sheet; that win takes his side to third position as they challenge for the Champions League spots, which they are just 3 points away from.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Joe Aribo, whose Rangers side shockingly lost out on penalties in the Scottish Cup quarter finals to St. Johnstone. His teammate, Leon Balogun, wasn’t listed for the match due to an injury layoff. Joe Aribo has been an instrumental player for Steven Gerrard’s side; he was instrumental to Rangers claiming the trophy from rivals, Celtic.
Tyrone Ebuehi was also on the losing end with his team, FC Twente, narrowly losing at home by 1-2. The Nigerian fullback is having a comeback season, following a long injury layoff which made him leave his former side, Benfica, for Holland. He’s had quite an impressive season and his team are going to maintain a mid-table position this season.
End-of-season matches are fiery and unpredictable, especially when they involve relegation-threatened or Champions-League-seeking teams. It’s in moments like this that the pivotal role some players play in their clubs become evident, while some other seemingly unimportant players suddenly become indispensable. What does this match week hold for Nigerian players in Europe? Let’s watch out.