Two African players – Mohammed Salah of Egypt and Sadio Mane of Egypt – won the English Premier League title with Liverpool a few days ago and this feat has placed them in forefront in the race for the African Footballer of the Year for 2020. We are aware that to be number one in Africa, a player must be one of the best in his team. Salah and Mane are among the best players in Liverpool and that is why the two have been the best in Africa in the past three years. Nigeria is also blessed with great talents, but they must work hard in all areas to actualise their full potentials and become better in their careers so that by extension, the Super Eagles will be better and stronger. On current form, we are happy to note that Nigerian players are gradually standing up to be counted in their respective clubs. The exploits of Super Eagles players between 1992 and 1998 have always been a reference point and so it was not a surprise that Nigerians tagged this period as the golden generation.
The Eagles won the AFCON title first time outside Nigeria in 1994, qualified for the World Cup same year for the first time, won the Olympic football event gold in 1996 and also qualified for the France 98 World Cup. During this period, Taribo West played for Inter and AC Milan, Victor Ikpeba was with Monaco, Samson Siasia in Nantes, Celestine Babayaro moved from Anderletch to Chelsea, Nwankwo Kanu featured for Ajax, AC Milan and Arsenal, Finidi George and Tijani Babangida were also in Ajax, Stephen Keshi in Anderletch, Emmanuel Amuneke in Barcelona, Daniel Amokachi featured for Everton and Bekistas, Joseph Yobo was in Everton, Yakubu Aiyegbeni was prolific in the English Premier League, scoring over 20 goals every season, while star man, Austin Okocha, was in PSG. Apart from playing in these top teams, they command respect and some of them captained their respective teams.
In addition, during the period, Amuneke, Ikpeba and Kanu won the African Footballer of the Year title, the same award Salah has won twice and Mane once in the past three years. Good enough some Nigerian players have been showing so much promise in recent times, such that we have hope that the developing Eagles could replicate the feat achieved by the golden generation players.
Eagles’ top striker, Victor Osimhen, has been outstanding in recent months in the colours of Lille FC of France. The 21-year-old emerged the top striker of the team after he registered 18 goals with six assists last season. Till date, Osimhen is the most ‘wanted’ Super Eagles player based on his current form and ratings.Only on Monday, the young striker won the 2020 Marc Vivian Foe prize for the best African player in France award.
It is a big honour to him and Nigeria. Liverpool, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid are some of the top teams said to be interested in the Nigerian forward. With a good agent, he is good enough to feature for a big team now to boost chances of being in the running for the African best player award. Another player, Moses Simon went on loan to Nantes of France, but his brilliant run only recently earned him a permanent contract in the French club.
He recorded nine goals and eight assists within the short spell he had with Nantes. Osimhen and Simon were voted the best player respectively in Lille and Nantes for the 2019/2020 season. This is a remarkable feat worthy of commendation.
There are other players making waves in the leagues abroad. Samuel Chukwueze is consistent with Villareal, just as Ramon Azeez is in the colours of Granada FC. In England, Wilfred Ndidi has been a key player for Leicester football club in the past two years and his profile has continued to be on the rise. Ndidi is another player being sought after by top clubs in Europe.
We salute the feat achieved by these players and we charge others to emulate them. We also charge Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, to study these players and build the national team around them. We strongly expect these rising Super Eagles’ stars to keep up the momentum to be among the best in the world.
They should aspire to play in the top teams in Europe since this will further boost their respective careers. Osimhen and Simon should aspire to reclaim the best player award next season, while Ndidi, Chukwueze, Azeez and other Eagles’ stars should work hard to be the best in their respective teams. The task before Eagles’ coach, Rohr, in his second spell in the team, is tough. He is expected to win the Africa Nations Cup and also lead Eagles to a good World Cup performance at Qatar 2022. Some current players in the Eagles are very young and promising. Rohr should work hard to bring out the best in these rising super stars so that the country could reclaim its rightful place in continental and global football scene.