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  Nigerian footballers performed exceptionally well in several elite leagues during the just-ended European football  2023/2024 season, significantly contributing to their clubs’ victories. The outstanding Nigerian athletes are ranked in this article according to their accomplishments, influence, and performances. Come celebrate the top 10 Nigerian players who turned heads in Europe this season.
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Criteria for Ranking

The ranking is based on comprehensive analysis, including:
  • Goals and assists
  • Defensive records
  • Consistency and overall performance
  • Impact on team success

10. Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City: English Championship)

Daily Post NG
  • Overview of the Season: Wilfred Ndidi remained a pivotal figure for Leicester City in the English Championship, renowned for his defensive prowess and huge presence in their midfield. Playing for the first time in the championship, he was crucial to Leicester’s move for a promotion in their first attempt after relegation, which led to them winning the championship for a direct promotion to the Premier League.
  • Key Statistics: 6 goals, 6 assists, 27 interceptions, 25 tackles, pass accuracy of 82.3%, and an average rating of 7 for the overall season.
  • Impact on Team Performance: Ndidi’s presence in the midfield was key to Leicester’s strong defensive record and Championship title.

9. Alex Iwobi (Fulham; English Premier League)

Sports Illustrated
  • Overview of the Season: With Fulham, Alex Iwobi had a fantastic Premier League season and was instrumental in helping the team go from early relegation struggles to a good mid-table finish. His calm demeanour, command of the Fulham midfield, and great confidence when handling the ball were essential to their fast-paced style of play. Iwobi’s outstanding playmaking skills and unceasing high press were a major factor in the team’s victory.
  • Key Statistics: 6 goals, 2 assists, 53 chances created, 40 successful dribbles, 18 tackles won, pass accuracy of 81.6%, and an average rating of 7.06 for the overall Season.
  • Impact on Team Performance: Iwobi played a vital role in Fulham’s midfield, helping them secure a mid-table finish in the Premier League and a strong EFL Cup campaign, reaching the semi-finals.
  • Notable Achievements: Included twice in the Premier League Team of the Week selections.

8. Ola Aina (Nottingham Forest; English Premier League)

Naija News
  • Overview of the Season: Despite coming in just 17th place, Ola Aina was instrumental in helping Nottingham Forest avoid relegation in the Premier League. Despite his lack of prominence in the first half of the season, he made a major contribution in the second half. Aina proved he was a versatile player by playing both right and left back well. The team benefited greatly from his quickness, tracking abilities, tackling prowess, and competence in both ground and air combat. Furthermore, he neutralized threats and removed dangers from the goal area because of his dribbling ability.
  • Key statistics: 1 goal, 1 assist, 31 tackles won, 63.5% duels won, pass accuracy of 79.9%, 27 successful dribbles, and an average rating of 7.1 for the overall season.
  • Impact on Team Performance: Aina’s aggressive full-back style was instrumental in Forrest’s successful bid to avoid relegation, helping them secure a 17th His pace and strength, combined with his physicality, provided a strong backbone for the team’s left flank, especially in the second half of the season.

7. Victor Osimhen (Napoli; Serie A)

Daily Post NG
  • Overview of the Season: Victor Osimhen experienced a bittersweet season with Napoli. While the team struggled defensively, having one of the poorest defences among Serie A title contenders, Osimhen still managed to have a commendable individual performance. Although his achievements did not quite reach the heights of his previous season, he nonetheless emerged as one of the league’s top scorers. His consistent goalscoring ability ensured his inclusion in this list and highlighted his ongoing importance to Napoli’s offensive efforts.
  • Key Statistics: 17 goals, 3 assists, 90 shots, 41 shots on target, 23 chances created, and an average rating of 7.20 for the overall season
  • Impact on Team Performance: While Osimhen’s goals were not enough to significantly bolster Napoli’s title defence, they did contribute to the team’s progress to the Round of 16 in both the UEFA Champions League and the Coppa Italia.
  • Notable Achievements: Finished 3rd in the Serie A Golden Boot race and was included thrice in the Serie A Team of the Week
  1. Bright Osayi-Samuel (Fenerbahçe; Turkish Super Ligue)

Daily Post NG
  • Overview of the Season: Bright was a key player in Fenerbahçe’s title race in the Turkish league this season. Although the team finished second, they accumulated an impressive 99 points, reflecting a highly successful campaign. As the team’s right back, Bright contributed significantly with his strength, aggression, and proficiency in both ground and aerial duels. He is particularly adept at recoveries and is a technically skilled defender. Despite narrowly missing out on silverware, his exceptional performance this season justifies his inclusion on this list.
  • Key Statistics: 4 goals, 1 assist, 25 tackles won, 112 duels won, 87.2% pass accuracy, and an average rating of 7.23 for the overall season.
  • Impact on Team Performance: Playing as right back for Fenerbahçe this season, Bright demonstrated both defensive and attacking prowess, helping the team finish second in the league and reach the quarterfinals of both the Turkish Cup and the Conference League.

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5. William Troost-Ekong (PAOK; Greek League)
  • Overview of the Season: Despite being injured for half of the season, Ekong’s outstanding performance in the first half and his distinction as the first player on this list to win silverware earn him a spot here. Known for his excellent defensive work rate, strength, and physicality, he played a crucial role in helping PAOK initiate their title challenge, ultimately leading to their triumph.
  • Key Statistics:9% pass accuracy, 66.7% tackles won, and an average rating of 7.

4. Jordan Torunarigha (Gent; Belgium Pro League)

Daily Post NG
  • Overview of the Season: Jordan played as the left centre-back in Gent’s three-man defence during their title race this season. The team was rock solid defensively, with Jordan being a crucial part of their backline. His strength, defensive prowess, and exceptional ability in both aerial and ground duels were instrumental to their success.
  • Key Statistics: 1 goal, 2 assists, 34 tackles won, 46 interceptions, 165 recoveries, and an average rating of 7.3 for the overall season.
  • Impact on Team Performance: Jordan has been pivotal in the gent title contending campaign, with him as the favoured left centre-back of the team. He earns quite several clean sheets and might be more important if they can finally clinch the title by early June.
  • Notable Achievements: He was Selected for the Sofascore Team of the Week three times in the Belgian Pro League.

3. Paul Onuachu (Trabzonspor; Turkish Super Ligue)

Soccernet NG
  • Overview of the Season: On loan from Southampton, Paul Onuachu had a successful season, effectively reviving his career after last season’s struggles in England. In Turkey, he showcased his exceptional skills and contributed significantly to his team’s success. As a key figure in the lineup, Onuachu’s versatility and consistent performance were evident throughout the campaign. Onuachu demonstrated his attacking prowess by contributing crucial goals and assists, establishing himself as a reliable offensive threat. His ability to find the back of the net in critical moments and set up teammates for scoring opportunities made him an invaluable asset. His intelligent positioning and clinical finishing were key factors in his team’s offensive strategy.
  • Key Statistics: 17 goals, 4 assists, 61 shots, 24 shots on targets, 150 duels won, and an average rating of 7.5 for the overall season
  • Impact on Team Performance: His attacking prowess was crucial in elevating Trabzonspor, traditionally a mid-table side, to a third-place finish in the league. Additionally, he helped the team come close to winning the Turkish Cup, scoring one of the two goals in a narrow 3-2 defeat in the final.
  • Notable Achievements: Paul Anaucho was selected for the Sofascore Team of the Week three times in the Turkish League. Additionally, he earned multiple Player of the Month awards for Trabzonspor and finished among the top 10 goal scorers in the league.

2. Victor Boniface (Bayer Leverkusen; Bundesliga)

Punch Newspapers
  • Overview of the Season: He arguably had the most successful season on this list, narrowly missing out on the top spot. His pace, finishing, and eye for goal contributed to an extraordinary campaign, both personally and for his team, which finished the season unbeaten.
  • Statistics: 21 goals, 9 assists, 80 shots, 46 successful dribbles, 22 chances created, and an average rating of 7.77 for the overall season.
  • Impact on Team Performance: Boniface was instrumental to Leverkusen’s invincible campaign, contributing significantly with his goals and assists, particularly in the first half of the season. His impact was pivotal in securing the team’s domestic double, during which they remained unbeaten, and their impressive run to the Europa League semifinals, culminating in one of the club’s best seasons ever.
  • Notable Achievements: Bundesliga rookie of the year, 1 time Bundesliga player of the month, and 3 times Bundesliga rookie of the month.

1. Ademola Lookman ( Atalanta; Serie A)

Afrik Foot
  • Overview of the Season: The best-performing Nigerian in Europe this season is Lookman, whose stunning displays for Atalanta were instrumental in their top-four finish and Europa League triumph. His pace, speed, goals, and dribbling abilities significantly contributed to the team’s success.
  • Statistics: 16 goals, 8 assists, 66 shots, 35 successful dribbles, 49 chances created, and an average rating of 7.8 for the overall season.
  • Impact on Team Performance: Lookman was at the heart of Atalanta’s successful campaign, single-handedly scoring a hat-trick in the Europa League final to end Boniface’s Leverkusen unbeaten season. In addition to their Europa League triumph, Lookman played a key role in helping the team secure a top-four finish in the league and reach the Coppa Italia final, where they narrowly lost 1-0 to Juventus.
  • Notable Achievements: Europa League Final Man of the Match, Europa League Team of the Season, 5 times Serie A Team of the week

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The 2023/24 Europa season was a testament to the exceptional talent and determination of Nigerian players. Each of the top 10 players showcased remarkable skills and played pivotal roles in their respective teams’ successes. Ademola Lookman’s standout performances, including his decisive hat-trick in the Europa League final, exemplified the high level of talent among Nigerian footballers. Victor Osimhen, Paul Onuachu, and others also made significant contributions, demonstrating versatility, resilience, and excellence on the European stage. These players not only brought pride to Nigerian football but also set high expectations for future seasons. Their achievements this year underline the growing influence of Nigerian talent in European football, promising even greater accomplishments in the years to come. As we look forward to the next season, the performances of these players will undoubtedly inspire many aspiring footballers and continue to elevate the status of Nigerian football internationally.
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This article was first published on 4th June 2024

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