Nigerian players are no pushover, as their immeasurable talent continues to be witnessed in competitive football leagues from the top five leagues in Europe to other lesser-known divisions across Europe and beyond.
Nigerian seems to have an extremely talented and admirable pool of talent, one that is being drained by nationally recognized teams all throughout the world.
There are dozens of Nigerian players plying their trade across the globe, however, there are some who were quite exceptional in regards to their performances in the year 2020.
While Nigeria has always been recognized as the home of footballing talent in Africa, the performances of Nigerian players in Europe’s top leagues have been awesome in the year 2020.
Here are 11 of the best Nigerian players for the year 2020
- Daniel Akpeyi – (Kaizer Chiefs)
The Super Eagles shot-stopper has proved to be an immense success at the PSL side, since his arrival from Chippa United another club based in South Africa. Akpeyi didn’t quite hit the ground running for the Amakhosi when he joined due to Khune’s impressive form.
However, as time goes by, the former Heartland goalkeeper got his chance in between the stick when the South Africa goalkeeper Khune got injured, and since then he hasn’t looked back on delivering top-notch performances for the PSL side.
Akpeyi may not be plying his trade in Europe’s top-flight league. However, what he has done in the PSL is quite stunning, which got him nominated for the goalkeeper of the season in the Premier Soccer League. Plus winning a couple of man of the match award for his outstanding performances.
- Ola Aina – (Fulham)
Following Aina’s arrival from Seria A side Torino on a season-long loan with an option to make the deal permanent, the Nigeria international has been delivering amazing performances defensively and offensively for Craven Cottage’s side.
The former Chelsea left-back has made double-digit appearances for the Whites since teaming up with them, helping them to steady the ship defensively, and going forward offensively.
Aina’s performances so far also help the Cottagers climb off the bottom table on the league, which cumulated into winning the Premier League goal of the month award in November. Which explains further how brilliant he’s being for the Whites since he returned back to England.
To win the award, the left-back beat off strong competition from Crystal Palace’s midfielder Eberechi Eze, City’s Riyad Mahraz, Solly March of Brighton, Leicester’s Jamie Verdy, Leeds United’s Raphinha, and Southampton duo of Ward Prowse and Danny Ings.
- Zaidu Sanusi – (FC Porto)
Nigeria international Sanusi is gradually turning himself into one of the finest full-backs in the Portuguese league. Following his arrival from Santa Clara in the summer to team up with Portuguese champions Porto, having spent just a season with the ‘Azoreans’.
The 23-year-old has quite impressed since joining Porto and looks to be taking his game to a new level with brilliant performances week in, week out for the Dragoa side.
Sanusi as a matter of fact, is without a doubt one of the revelation stars of 2020, as such making this list of best Nigerian Players of 2020 is a testament to how fantastic he’s being for Porto both in the league and European competition.
After an impressive 2019-20 season at Santa Clara, in which he created chances an average of 0.7 passes per game over 21 starts. Some set of fans wouldn’t have thought he would found it so easy to fill the huge boot the Brazilian Alex Telles left behind following his move to Manchester United.
So while Telles is somewhat finding life at United quite cumbersome, the Nigeria international has already laid claim to the position the Brazilian left, with mouthwatering performances and his relentless stamina on the defensive third, as well as his whip of crosses on the offensive.
- Troost Ekong – (Watford)
Troost has always been a solid defender for both country and club since he burst to the scene. The Nigeria international has plied his trade in the Dutch, Turkish, Italian league where he impressed brilliantly with Bursaspor before sealing a move to Udinese in Seria A.
For some years now, the Haarlem born defender has been one of Nigeria’s most consistent player playing in Europe, with brilliant performances for his team as well as being reliable defensive wise for the Super Eagles.
The 27-year-old moved to the Hornets from the Seria A side Udinese in September this year. Since he moved to the Championship with Watford, he has been very instrumental in their quest to return back to the top-flight.
As such, Ekong was voted Watford man of the match for his superb performance in his side’s triumph against fellow Championship side Birmingham City, beating teammates Troy Deeney and Chalobah to the award.
- Semi Ajayi – (West Brom)
The Hawthorn may have exhausted the kind of form they enjoyed back in the Championship with the Nigeria international playing an integral part in their quest to return to the Premier League. Right now their form in the top-flight hasn’t been something to wish for.
However, the central defender has been decent for a couple of years, but in 2020 his career experienced a lift in form. Starting from 2019, the former Rotherham United had a fantastic season for West Brom, which cumulated into them securing promotion to the English top-flight.
The imposing center back showed remarkable composure and solidity at the back for the Baggies. Ajayi was that good for West Brom that he scored six goals in the league for the Baggies, and some of those goals came in pivotal moments.
Although the Baggies ain’t that fantastic and are struggling in the league this season. However, the Super Eagles defender has been quite decent with fine top-notch performances and stands out amongst his colleagues.
- Joe Aribo – (Glasgow Rangers)
The Super Eagles midfielder move from Charlton Athletic on a free transfer to Glasgow Ranger has been a blessing to the career of the former Staines Town midfielder. Since his arrival to the Ibrox Park, he has being a key cog of Steven Gerrard’s team with brilliant performances playing in multiple positions for the Gers.
Under Gerrard, Aribo has shown he’s not only a ball-playing midfielder but also the one with an eye for goals in the opposition’s yard. As a matter of fact, his previous matches for the Eagles since he decided to don the Eagles shirt, have shown how capable and dangerous he could be when in the opposing box.
This year, Aribo has been one of the most consistent Nigeria players both home and abroad, even when he was out injured for Rangers he did come back into the team being one of Steven Gerrard’s most trusted lieutenant.
- Wilfred Ndidi – (Leicester City)
Injury has been a dent on Ndidi’s form in the latter part of 2020. However, that hasn’t limited his impact and authority in Leicester’s midfielder anytime he returns from an injury layoff.
Wilfred Ndidi has been the most consistent and arguably the best Nigerian player in the last couple of years delivering world-class performances for the former Premier League Champion.
Since the Nigeria international left Genk for England, Ndidi has been one of the most consistent players in his position.
In the 2019-20 season, the midfielder helped Leicester City finished in the top four, and in 2020 he also continued in that stride delivering top-quality performances.
- Eberechi Eze – (Crystal Palace)
Crystal Palace is one of the consistent mid-table English Premier League teams in the last two to three seasons now, under the tutelage of Roy Hodgson. In other to compete well and stay consistent in the league, one would understand why the team from Selhurst Park secured the Nigerian-born player that will deliver the much-needed X-factor for the team.
Eze was signed from Championship side QPR for £16 million, a good deal that made the Palace faithful excited with the arrival of the midfielder, having performed extremely well with the most completed numbers of dribbles, 13 goals, and eight assists in the Championship.
Since he joined The Eagles, he has brought in some sort of improvement into the team in terms of midfield creativity.
The Nigerian player may not be one of the best ball-playing midfielders in the league, but the former QPR star is definitely an upgrade in Hodgson’s team.
Eze is expected to establish himself as one of the important players of Palace, and so far in the league, he’s being one of the brains of the Palace team.
- Victor Osimhen – (Napoli)
The undoubted number one striker for the Super Eagles may not be enjoying the kind of goalscoring form he enjoyed in the 2019-20 season with Lille in the Ligue 1, scoring 18 goals in 38 appearances. Which won him the club’s player of the year award, plus being included in the Ligue 1 team of the season and won the Marc Vivian For award for the best African player in the league.
In the 2020-21 season, the Nigeria international hasn’t really been in super hot form due to the injury he picked up during international assignment having moved to Napoli. However, what he achieved with Lille can’t be forgotten and that got him the opportunity to be included in this list of best Nigerian Players for the year 2020
With the year already running out, much more would be expected from Osimhen as we prepare to enter into a new year both with Napoli and the Super Eagles.
His previous goalscoring form with Lille may be hard to come by, with Osimhen playing with players with much quality compared to Lille’s caliber of players, the goal poacher would certainly improve and score more for Napoli in the Seria A.
- Paul Onuachu – (Genk)
After an impressive show of form in Denmark with FC Midtjylland, the forward moved to Belgium, a bigger league and more competitive compared to the Danish league. Getting to the Belgian league, Onuachu couldn’t replicate his Denmark form in the first season, scoring only 9 goals in 22 match appearances.
However, this year scoring goals has been quite easy for the lanky striker painting the league blue and black with goals, and so far as at this moment, he has scored over 14 goals for Genk.
Even though the former Vejle and Midtjylland forward may not have found it easy to play in the national team, however, he continues to show the kind of player that could give Gernot Rohr a lot of headache in terms of picking a striker.
Onuachu is so important in his team that when he was suspended by the team’s board, he came back into the team and start banging in the goals which is a testament to how important he has been for the Belgian side this year.
- Cyril Dessers – (Genk)
Dessers is among fantastic Nigerian players that had a wonderful 2019-20 season with Heracles Almelo in the Dutch league, scoring 15 goals in 25 match appearances. With such great form for Heracles, a lot of fans opine that it would be quite difficult for him to start the new season with the team.
As such, Genk proved to be his next destination, and the Belgian side is much stronger in terms of quality compared to Almelo. So with Dessers arrival having demonstrated how good he is in front of goal and his ability to carry the team, and he has been quite decent since he joined.
The new Super Eagles debutant may not be the go-to man for Genk, however, we would say that the former Heracles poacher is also an important member of Genk, with four goals to his name this year.
Having said all of that, these Nigerian players listed are picked based on their form in the year in review. However, if you feel otherwise or disagree, feel free to draw up your own list in our comment session.
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big Elsewhere
The English Premier League has welcomed some of the best players in the history of football. Players from different continents have made a huge impact on the league with impressive performances. There are others who failed to impress and can be termed as flops.
The League is quite unique from other European leagues. It is more competitive, fierce, physically challenging in nature. Needless to say, a player who isn’t mentally and physically geared up for this will stumble under the pressure.
Established stars can fall by the wayside with their former successes and triumphs becoming nothing more than a footnote in the EPL. Impressively, some of these players put in impressive performances when they moved to other leagues.
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big In Other Leagues
Following the impending sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Tottenham bought several players, one of the players they bought was Paulinho.
Paulinho was signed from Corinthians in Brazil where he helped them win the Copa Libertadores, Brasileirao, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
They defeated Chelsea in the latter to lift the trophy. Importantly, he had just won the FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil and was voted as the third-best player at the tournament.
He joined Tottenham as the club’s record signing in 2013, so a lot was expected of him. However, his performance was not as impressive as the club had envisaged. He was later sold to Guangzhou Evergrande in China at a loss.
The Brazilian’s transfer to the Chinese league resulted in a change of fortunes, as helped the club claim the Chinese league and the AFC Champions League title in his first season.
In the second, he was voted into the Chinese League team of the year in recognition of his performance. Also, he won the league, FA Cup, and Super Cup.
Although critics downplayed his performance, citing the standard of the Chinese league compared to the English league, Paulinho impressed in Spain too following a €40 million move to Barcelona.
Paulinho helped the club claim the league and the Copa del Rey trophy. His performance in his only season with Barcelona impressed Ronaldinho who said: “He really stood out.”
- Iago Aspas
Most Premier League fan remembers Aspas only as a Liverpool flop with the number 9 jersey. Aspas moved from boyhood club Celta Vigo to Liverpool for a deal estimated to be around £7.7 m, with Liverpool hoping to have unearthed a gem. However, that gem turns dregs, failing to score in any of his 14 league appearances.
After just one season, Liverpool decided that they have seen enough so they sent him on a season-long loan to Sevilla with an obligation to buy. In his season-long loan at the club, he was the joint top scorer in the Copa del Rey alongside Neymar with 7 goals and won the UEFA Europa League.
At the end of his season-long loan at Sevilla, the club signed him from Liverpool but sold him to Celta Vigo in the same transfer window. In every of his first 5 seasons at Celta Vigo, he scored in double digits.
In fact, in three of the 5 seasons, he won the Zarra Trophy awarded to the Spanish player with the most league goals in a season. As of December 2020, Aspas had won La Liga player of the month four times.
- Diego Forlan
Perhaps, the most notable and interesting English Premier League flop who became a star in another League. He was not just impressive in another league; he was extraordinary with his National team Uruguay.
Sir Alex Ferguson signed Forlan in 2001 following the attacker’s impressive form at Independiente in Argentina. In his first season in England, Forlan made 18 appearances but failed to score a single goal. The two seasons after were not impressive either, hence his transfer to Villarreal.
Impressively, Forlan scored 25 league goals in his first season with Villarreal and won the league’s top scorers award (2004/05). Also, he was awarded the European Golden Shoe award alongside Thierry Henry the same year. He left the club two seasons later for Atletico with 59 goals scored in 128 matches.
In his second season with Atletico Madrid (2008/09), Forlan beat Samuel Eto’o to the Spanish league’s top scorer’s award. He scored 32 league goals in 33 league appearances that season which earned him the Pichichi trophy. Again, he won the European Golden Shoe but this time it was not shared with anyone.
The next season (2009/10), Forlan played a key role as Atletico won the Europa League. He scored six times in the tournament, including two in the 2-1 win over Fulham in the final. He was voted as the man of the match in the final.
With his national team, he was just as impressive; he scored the most goals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup alongside Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, and David Villa.
Furthermore, he was voted into the FIFA World Cup dream team and won the Golden Ball and goal of the tournament title. By the time he retired, he was Uruguay’s highest goal scorer in history, a record which has since been broken by Luis Suarez.
Forlan eventually became so good that some Football fans think he is the caliber of player that could have won the Ballon d’Or.
There are several reasons why players struggle when they change clubs, especially to other countries. Culture, language, teammates, family are some factors that can affect their performances.
These 3 cases show that a player may fail to perform in one league but go on to become a star in another league.
Top 15 Highest Paid Players In Ligue 1
Ligue 1 no doubt harbors quite a number of talented players, as such it’s quite understandable for those considered to be world-class players among them to cash out hugely on what they earn at the end of the month.
As of late, the players’ salaries have given indications of solid development, on account of the tremendous income pouring into the game. The fierce rivalry between the country’s top football clubs has brought the nature of the competition higher than ever. The league has more than its own fair share of highly paid players.
Here is a rundown of the top 15 highest-paid players in the Ligue 1
- Neymar Jr – (Paris Saint Germain, – €3.06 Per Month )
Behind Ronaldo and Messi, the Brazilian forward is regarded as the third-best player in world football since moving from Santos to Barcelona in 2013 for a deal reported worth €86.2million.
After apparently growing and widening his status as a footballer with his achievement on and off the pitch, it was evident that the former Puskas Award winner would go on to attract top elite clubs.
With the Parisian club brimming with a lot of cash to flex muscles with high spending clubs, it was just a matter of time before Neymar would join them. Fast forward to 2017, the Selecao captain signed for PSG for a world record transfer fee worth €222million, and since then he’s been an important figure of both the club and their project.
Amidst transfer rumors of him returning to his old home Barcelona, plus the fact that the Parisian are also ready to offer him a new deal that would tie him down with the French side for at least another three seasons.
- Kylian Mbappe – (Paris Saint Germain, € 1.91m Per Month)
As a World Cup winner and one of the best prospects in world football, it’s quite understandable for Mbappe to be among the highest-paid players in Ligue 1 and Paris Saint Germain. The 2018 World Cup winner burst into the scene as a young player for Monaco, making his professional debut in 2015 at the age of 15.
The Frenchman signed for the Parisian club in 2017 on loan, which was later made permanent in 2018. He has shown to be a great prospect for both the club and their project in dominating the Ligue 1 and also flex muscles with the top clubs in Europe.
His permanent transfer to Paris Saint Germain is reported to be worth €180million, making him both the second most expensive player and most expensive teenager. Since joining the Ligue 1 Champions permanently, the 22-year-old has scored over 120 goals for the Parisian club.
However, amidst the rumor of Real Madrid prepping up to break the bank in their quest to bring him down to the Bernabeu, the World Cup winner is still actively the second biggest earner in the league and of course Paris Saint Germain.
- Correa Marquinhos & Marco Verratti – (Paris Saint Germain, €1.2m Per Month)
Since the departure of top players such as Edinson Cavani, Zlatan, and recently Thiago Silva, Marquinhos’s status has risen from being a mere squad player in the dressing room into a leader, captain, and one of the best gladiator of the club.
As a 19-year-old teenager, the Brazilian was signed in 2013 on a five-year deal by Paris Saint Germain from AS Roma for a fee of around €31.4million. And as reported by BBC Sport, the deal was said to be the highest transfer fee for a teenager then, while Sky also reports it to be the then fifth highest transfer.
The current form of the Brazilian makes him rank as one of Europe’s most valuable players, most especially as a player who is currently plying his trade with the best team in France.
According to the transfer market rating, Marquinhos market value currently stands at €70million, as such with his years of experience and playing over 313 matches for the Parisian, it’s no surprise that the club captain takes home €1.2m per month tied with the Italian on the same amount.
As for the Italian, he’s also been a very instrumental player for the team since joining the club nine years ago. There have always been rumors concerning his future, either joining Barcelona or go back to Italy, but as it stands his current contract with Paris Saint Germain would expire in 2024.
- Angel Di Maria – (Paris Saint Germain, €1.1m Per Month)
Since joining the Parisian for €63million after a disappointing stint with Manchester United in 2015, the Argentine winger has continued to prove to the world that he’s still one of the best players in football since leaving Real Madrid.
Di Maria isn’t just rank among the highest earner for doing nothing, he earns his pay through his brilliant performances over the years since joining them, accumulating a total of 251 appearances scoring over 88 goals and 104 assists.
The former Real Madrid winger may not stay in the Ligue 1 with Paris Saint Germain for three years or more, as he’s already moving close to the end of his career. However, with his deal still running that makes him the fourth-highest earner in the league.
- Keylor Navas – (Paris Saint Germain, €1m Per Month)
When Navas joined Madrid from Levante in the summer of 2014, no one ever thought he’s going to achieve quite a number of success with Los Blancos based on where he was coming from and his antecedent as a goalkeeper.
After a successful stint with Los Merengues, the imminent arrival of Thibaut Courtois means the Costa Rican goalkeeper days at Real Madrid are numbered.
With his achievement at Real Madrid, it was evident that the Costa Rican won’t find it hard to get good European suitor to come by, as such Paris Saint Germain came calling for his services in 2019 having been told he won’t be Real Madrid number one going forward into the new season.
Following Navas’s move to the French capital, it means his salary would be on the high side based on his achievement and reputation as a Champions League winner with arguably the biggest club in Europe.
As a Paris Saint Germain player, he earns €1m per month, making the Costa Rican one of the highest-paid players in Ligue 1
READ ALSO: 10 Richest Club Owners In World Football
- Mauro Icardi – (Paris Saint Germain, €800,000 Per Month)
The imminent departure of El Matador when Icardi joined Paris Saint Germain on loan means the responsibility of goalscoring would be on the shoulder of the Argentine. The former Inter Milan forward made his loan permanent with the PSG following a strong start in Paris.
The Argentine and controversy certainly go hand in hand based on his antecedent with his previous clubs. Everywhere he goes he has always shown he could lead the line perfectly, and since he joined the Parisian permanently no report of controversy has been recorded concerning the former Nerazzurri captain.
Icardi may not be the poster boy of PSG just like his days at Inter, that doesn’t make him less of a player in the dressing room among other star players like Neymar and Mbappe who are no doubt the face of the club.
- Leandro Paredes – (Paris Saint Germain, €750,000 Per Month)
Juan Bernat – (Paris Saint Germain, €700,000 Per Month)
Presnel Kimpembe – (Paris Saint Germain, €670,000 Per Month)
Ander Herrera – (Paris Saint Germain, €650,000 Per Month)
Wissam Ben Yedder – (Monaco, €650,000 Per Month)
Cesc Fabregas – (Monaco, €600,000 Per Month)
Julian Draxler – (Paris Saint Germain, €600,000 Per Month)
Idrissa Guaye – (Paris Saint Germain, €500,000 Per Month)