Nigeria stars back in hot demand in Europe

IKENWA NNABUOGOR celebrates the renewed interest in Nigerian players in Europe, saying it can only be good for the country…

It seems the glory days for Nigerian players are back as more European clubs keep swelling their ranks with players from this country.

The last time Nigerian players enjoyed such interest was in the mid-90s, when the likes of Finidi George, Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha,  Victor Ikpeba, Taribo West, Nwankwo Kanu and others attracted the best clubs across Europe.

This new demand for Nigerian players peaked with the eye-popping mega cash Italian side SSC Napoli doled out to French side Lille for 21-year-old striker Victor Osimhen, who experts have predicted he attract €130 million in transfer fees  in the coming years.

CSKA Moscow wasted no time to grab another Nigeria star, Ejuke Chidera, from Dutch side, Heerenveen – it was a €12 million deal that came hot on the heels of Osimhen’s celebrated transfer to Napoli.

The fair-skinned winger, whose dribbles have recently been recognised by FIFA, had been chased by a horde of top spenders, but it was at CSKA who finally landed him.

CSKA had always wanted a replacement in the mould of their former Nigeria striker Ahmed Musa and have now done so with the arrival of Ejuke.

So good Ejuke was that he was named in next fixture less than 24 hours after penning the deal and wasted no time thrilling the fans with his sublime skills and blistering pace.

Headlines have refused to die down for the right reasons for Emmanuel Dennis of Club Brugge after youngster Terem Moffi was eventually snapped up by French Ligue 1 side Lorient from KV Kortrijk for a record eight million Euros.

Dennis, for one, has been chased by bigger clubs for over a year now.

Transfer news out of Sweden has had the name of Alhassan Yusuf always flying around as the Kano-born midfielder continues to stamp his authority in the IFK Gothenburg midfield.

English clubs Sheffield United and Wolves and lately Leicester City have refused to turn off the searchlight on this exciting midfielder.

Fees in the region of £9 million to £ 15 million have been mentioned as all the parties involved continue to wait for a transfer to be finalised.

Just recently, another youngster Tolu Arokodare surprised even himself by signing for German Bundesliga side FC Cologne as the interest of Nigerian players continued to soar in Europe.

Anderlecht had been in the fore front to land the previously unknown Nigerian after he netted 16 goals in 15 games for Latvian side Valmiera FC.

The lanky striker even had to go on strike in protest against his club for blocking his move to the multiple Belgian champions.

Anderlecht’s loss became Cologne’s game as Arokodare will be expected to use Cologne to smash transfer record fees.

The exciting talents of FC Midtylland box-to-box midfielder Frank  Onyeka and Bodo Glimt young striker Victor Boniface have also not gone unnoticed by top European clubs.

Onyeka has been a long-time target of bigger clubs in Germany and France as the Nigerian continues to run things in the middle for the Danish champions.

This week he was rewarded his exploits with a first-ever call-up to the Super Eagles.

It’s about time Onyeka left the Danish side to follow in the footsteps of his compatriots Sylvester Igbonu and Paul Onuachu, who have moved on to greater things in Russia and Belgium, respectively.

Boniface, only 19, has scored six goals so far and a couple more in the UEFA Europa League to alert bigger clubs.

He’s most likely to be on the move in the winter transfer window.

Latvia and Lithuania have come to be production lines for Nigerian players lately and the bigger clubs searchlights have been beamed there to grab fresh and young Nigerian talents.

Both Moffi and Arokodare are the big names to have emerged from the European football backwaters to fight for honours in mainstream Europe.

There are about 35 Nigerian players in both countries fighting very hard to follow in their footsteps.

No doubt, with the way things are going, Nigerian players are again the ammunition for the big European guns to fire on.