As we know the NPFL is shrouded with lots of ageing footballers, today CheapGoals.com focus on young players who are prepared to make their mark at the highest level. It’s hard to pick from such a fantastically gifted gathering of youngster all through the Nigeria Professional Football League.
A detailed look at the ten young prospect every football enthusiasts must watch out for in 2016/2017, we’ve selected ten players under the age of 23 poised to break through in a big way this season.
10. Akanni Elijah (16 years) -Midfielder – MFM FC
The teenager who recently made his debut against Wikki tourists in a rescheduled match Last Wednesday impressed greatly in the sides 1-1 draw.
Just 16 years old, the former Pepsi academy graduate controlled the midfield with calm and composure and he had a hand in his side’s equaliser. He is highly rated by the coaches at MFM. Elijah can play from the right side of midfield as well as a right wing back and is a free kick specialist. A prospect for the future.
9. Ibrahim Alhassan aka “Muazam” (21 years)- Striker – Akwa United
A former U-17 player with the 2013 set (although missed both the U-17 Afcon and World Cup after failing MRI scan) Muazam was the team’s highest goal scorer in the qualifiers before the emergence of Isaac success coupled with his failing of the MRI scan at the U17 camp.
The former flying Eagle striker went on a couple of trials outside the country and has played for Wikki tourist in the NPFl before settling with the Uyo based side and at 21 years of age, There’s still time on his side to fulfil his potential as a goal poacher.
He was instrumental in Akwa United 3-1 win over plateau united in February, he scored a brace in the match as the Uyo side ended their visitor’s unbeaten start to the season.
8. Ifeanyi Ifeanyi (21 years) – Midfielder- Akwa United.
Ifeanyi just like Muazam is also a former flying eagles player he made the 2015 U-20 team to the U-20 world cup in New Zealand.
He formerly played for MFM FC in the NNL and in the Olukoya Boys’ debut in the NPFL. Ifeanyi is a free kick expert, and as a result was the designated free kick taker when he was with the Lagos-based team. The 21-year-old is currently based in Uyo with Akwa United.
7. Otun Fawaz (17 years) -midfielder- Shooting Stars (3sc)
The young midfielder who was discovered after a pre-season tournament in mid-2016 as a 16-year-old. He made the team list for the NPFL all stars team to Spain last year.
At just 17 years old, the talented midfielder has been an integral part of the Oluyole warriors this season.
6. Etor Daniel (23years) -Striker- Rangers
Alongside Obinna Nwobodo, Chisom Egbechulam, Etor was a menace as the flying antelopes secured their first league title in over 30 years.
In 2012 he was called up to the Nigeria Super Eagles home-based team. He made his first appearance for the senior national team and was part of the Nigeria U-20 2012 and 2013. He was also selected by Nigeria for their 35-man provisional squad for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Etor Daniel played and won with Nigeria team the 2016 Caf All Africa Games tournament and Caf U23 championship 2016. Although just 23, he has played for Akwa United, ABS and Enyimba in the NPFL.
He was also selected by Nigeria for their 35-man provisional squad for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Etor Daniel played and won with Nigeria team the 2016 Caf All Africa Games tournament and Caf U23 championship 2016. Although just 23, he has played for Akwa United, ABS and Enyimba in the NPFL.
5. Nazifi Yahaya (16 years) – Striker – Kano Pillars
Yahaya was part of the 2016 set of the U-17 team that failed to qualify for the 2017 Caf U-17 tournament. The talented striker is hailed as the next striking prospect after Victor Oshimen.
He signed for Pillars before the start of the current season in December 2016 and has been part of the first team ever since. Nazifi Yahaya has started matches against Rivers United and Katsina United this term.
4. Alhassan Ibrahim (17 years) -Midfielder- (Kano pillars)
Not to be mistaken for the former flying Eagles striker, Muazam. Ibrahim was signed from Saudarna FC last year after an FA cup game between pillars and Saudarna fc where he had an impressive performance.
The 17-year-old has been instrumental alongside Nazifi Yahaya in the Pillars team this season, scoring in the team 3-1 win over Enyimba earlier this season.
3. Adebayo Waheed (18years)-Striker- MFM FC
Another talented striker under the payroll of the Olukoya boys. The 18-year-old announced himself to the NPFL followers after scoring the only goal for MFM win against Kano pillars earlier this season.
He was brought in the second half of the game and paid the coaches faith by connecting well with a Stanley okorom cross with a header which sealed the win for his team.
2. Stephen Odey (22 years) -Striker- MFM FC
The current league top scorer is still a teenager, Stephen Odey has scored 12 goals so far in 11 league matches for MFM FC this season.
However, his scoring ability has been known since his days as a secondary school boy with Diary Farm FC. He was the most valuable player for the 2012 edition of the Lagos state principals cup has he top scored and led his school to victory.
He has been clamoured to be handed a call-up into the super Eagles team and it’s a matter of time before he gets a call-up. Odey has registered 12 goals so far this season.
1. Obinna Nwobodo (20 years)-Midfielder- Rangers Intl.
Many still wonder why a talent like his magnitude still doing in the local leagues. He was a major player in Rangers run to the NPFL title last season.
Nwobodo represented Nigeria at the CAF U-20 Championship 2015. He scored a vital goal in the semi-final against Ghana as the Nigerian team went on to win the championship. He suffered an injury during the final which subsequently ruled him out of the U-20 World cup later in 2015.
He contributed 7 goals and 10 assists to finish as arguably the best midfielder in the league in his first professional season in the top flight of Nigerian football. He was instrumental to their eventual title triumph, providing half of the assists for Chisom Egbuchulam’s 16 goals and ending Rangers’ 32-year wait for a 7th league title.
On match-day 37 against Ikorodu United, he scored a goal of the season contender – having sighted the Ikorodu United goalkeeper off his line, he scored with a lofted chip shot from almost 40 yards out.
Paul Onuachu: A Victim Of Tactical Deficiency
Ever wondered why Genk forward Paul Onuachu has always been a prolific figure for his club and find it hard to replicate that form with the Super Eagles when invited?
The Nigeria international has been in awesome form for the Blue-White, scoring 26 goals in the Jupiler League this season for Genk, while his scoring prowess at his club has been a contrast to his form with the national team under Gernot Rohr scoring just once in 9 games despite being a top performer at club level.
Ahead of the AFCON qualifier doubleheader against Lesotho and the Benin Republic, Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr named his 23 man list with the inform former Midtjylland forward listed as one of the standby players.
Onuachu’s struggles with the Super Eagles in previous games he featured is quite baffling, considering the excitement that greeted his first appearance with the national team plus the impressive form he’s currently in.
The job of every manager is to find a suitable position or fashion out tactics that would be suitable for their players in other to blend with the team approaches to every match. In Onuachu’s case, he hasn’t been fortunate enough to blend in with Rohr’s tactics. While at club level, Midtjylland plays to his strength.
However, due to Napoli’s players been restricted from traveling, the Genk forward made it through the backdoor to replace Gernot Rohr’s number one forward Victor Osimhen who hasn’t really hit the ground running with the ‘Partenopei‘, but when with the Eagles, he never fails to deliver.
It’s no doubt that the lanky striker has failed to deliver in his previous games, disappointing the ever-demanding Nigerian football enthusiasts with unforgiving backlashes from the fans. However, his prolific prowess with his club suggests otherwise and consistently makes a case for him to be integrated into the team with a different tactical approach that suits his style.
The era of a target man may have been long gone in football due to the advent of new tactics that have brought about a series of changes in the game. With managers preferring to go with a fast, skillful, or makeshift winger- kind of striker, instead of a target man.
READ ALSO: Super Eagles: 9 Players Who Netted On Debut
Looking at how Paul Onuachu plays with Genk upfront shows he’s one of the best target men in football, despite been perceived by many as a slow and old-fashioned kind of forward. However, John van den Bromm has been able to carve out a tactic that suits him which has been evident with his prolific form irrespective of his style of play.
Onuachu’s Super Eagle future might be on the knife-edge with Gernot Rohr not finding the right tactics that suit the Genk forward, especially with him not been consider as the go-to man despite his blistering runs of form in Belgium.
In recent times Rohr’s philosophy of vibrant attacking football with an emphasis on passing in the final third which requires the expertise of brilliant players to implement such tactics hasn’t really favored him.
Having a player in the mold of Onuachu gives Rohr another tactical option and an alternative style of play should the initial approach fails to work as expected, but the German tactician hasn’t really taken advantage of what the man could offer with a different opponent.
Onuachu’s presence in the Super Eagles team should be an added advantage in terms of variety when the normal approach of the manager fails. With an in-form striker on the bench, it could prove valuable, but in the former Midtjylland’s case, Gernot Rohr doesn’t seem to see him as a player that has a future with the national team.
Players in the mold of the Nigerian are quite physically imposing as the point man, though they may not offer the team excellent off-the-ball movement in some cases. However, they often find a way to provide an opportunity which the team could utilize when attacking or defending.
Onuachu’s inability to show a good turn of pace and smart footwork may have been one of the deficiencies that are affecting his chances of blending perfectly into the team.
However, the job of a manager is to help players blend in perfectly, and that’s exactly what Gernot Rohr should be doing. Not only for Onuachu but for every other player who are always finding it hard to replicate club form with the National Team.
6 Of The Highest Earners In NPFL 2020/21
Who are the highest-paid NPFL players in 2021? The Nigerian League may not possess the financial pulling power of the South African Premier Division or the Egyptian Premier League but there are still some serious earners in NPFL.
The last transfer window in the NPFL was eventful as always; players moved from various clubs to the other with the popular transfers involving Ojo Olorunleke who moved from Sunshine Stars to Abia Warriors.
The duo of Ifeanyi Anaenema and Theophilus Afelokhai also crossed from Enyimba International to Rivers United.
Therefore, a number of the transfer dealings confirmed some of the players mentioned above as the highest earners in the league, at least for the 2020-2021 season.
Here are the Highest Earning Players In The NPFL
- Theophilus Afelokhai – Rivers United ($2,886 = 1.1 M)
The erstwhile Kano Pillars and Enyimba shot-stopper is undoubtedly one of the best in the league and he’s also the highest-paid player in the NPFL currently, following his move from the People’s Elephant last August.
Afelokhai, who joined Rivers United for free revealed in an interview last year that his decision to dump Enyimba was not all about money.
“It is not only about money. I have good relationships with many people there. Like the commissioner (Boma Iyaye) is my boss. Eguma is also my coach from way back, as well as other coaches there.” Afelokhai told nigerianfootballer.com
For the records, the 32-year old was also the highest-earning player at Enyimba before he left last year, and with him in the sticks for Stanley Eguma’s side this season, he has recorded four clean sheets in seven appearances for the Pride of Rivers.
- Ifeanyi Anaemena – Rivers United ($2,361 = 900K)
Here’s another former Enyimba stalwart, Ifeanyi Anaemena. The center back was acquired by Rivers United in August last year having spent six years at Enyimba where he won two NPFL titles, the last of which he lifted as a captain of the Aba Elephants.
Just like Afelokhai, Anaemena also joined Rivers United for free, a move that shocked the Nigerian football fans.
According to the experienced defender, following the expiration of his contract at Enyimba, there was an apparent communication lacuna between himself and the club, an act that was unprofessional being the captain of the club.
“Before now, if Enyimba should be professional, I think they should have renewed my contract before now, and when my contract turned off, I was expecting them to talk to me, as the captain of the team and there was no concrete information from them.”
“So, I think some issues came around that they couldn’t meet up with the target that was set. I had an opportunity with Rivers United, which they had been inviting me before to come and play for them. Coach [Stanley] Eguma called me to come and play for them. I think this was the right time, I just had to move on, and I took up the opportunity.” He revealed to busybuddiesng.com.
He was unveiled alongside Theophilus Afelokhai two days after joining Rivers United where he now earns nine hundred thousand nairas monthly.
- Godwin Aguda – Rivers United ( $2,099 = 800K)
Former Enugu Rangers attacker, Godwin Aguda switched to Rivers United last August and he’s been massive for Stanley Eguma and Rivers United this term.
He pockets a sum of eight hundred thousand naira monthly which makes him the third highest-earning player in the league this season alongside Kano Pillars’ captain, Rabiu Ali, and Akwa United’s duo of Mfon Udoh and Ndifreke Effiong.
- Cyril Olisema, Tosin Omoyele, and Austin Oladapo – Enyimba ($1,837 = 700K)
- Tosin Omoyele
- Austin Oladapo
The fight for supremacy between Enyimba and Rivers United has obviously gone beyond the pitch. We’ve seen the two clubs trade tackles on the continent this season, battling for a place in the group stages of the CAF Confederations Cup – which Enyimba eventually got.
Even in the aspect of which club pays more, there’s a nail-biting contest between the two giants. At Enyimba, the captain, Austin Oladapo, Tosin Omoyele as well as Cyril Olisema are the highest earners in the wake of the exit of Afelokhai and Anaemena.
And while Afelokhai and Anaemena have been instrumental for Rivers so far, the same can be said for the trio of Olisema, Omoyele, and Oladapo at Enyimba.
However, It remains to be seen which club will become the best paying club in the league as we could see a drastic change should another club spend heavily in the next transfer window.