As the 2012/13 season formally kicks off for most Nigerian football fans this week, Goal.com takes a look at the top Nigerian football stars to watchSPECIAL
By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor
As the new football season commences across Europe, Goal.com takes a look at the Nigerian players that will be expected to dazzle and fly the country's colours in the new season.
Victor Moses has been the subject of a summer-long transfer haggle between Wigan and Chelsea and it may drag till the last hours of the transfer window. Moses was born in Kano but was taken to England when he was 11.
Moses is not the ordinary winger or striker – he has the natural ability to ‘disappear’ in front of his marker. Though last season could be termed a breakout season for the 21-year old, this season will be one of consolidation or better still enhancement. Whether he moves to Chelsea or stays at Wigan, he must become a more consistent performer and a go-to guy when his side is in trouble.
Though he had an 81% pass completion rate last season, his decision making in the last third of the field must improve and also his goals per games ratio. At 21, he can only improve as he has done consistently over the last two seasons.
Ideye Brown has already hit the ground running this season and is well on the way to surpassing last season’s tally of 15 goals. The unused striker at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is shaping up to become the real deal. Just 23 years-old, the Dynamo Kyiv hit man has already scored eight goals in seven games, six in five league matches and two in Europe.
Last season, he partly justified his 8.5 million euros (N1.6 billion) move but this season, with Andriy Shevchenko retired, he will have to take up more goal scoring responsibilities which he already seems to be up to. With a good build, good with both feet and an aerial threat, the Nigerian striker could earn a more lucrative move to Western Europe if he continues to score at the present rate.
The national team will also benefit from this potency but he needs to come home and score for the Super Eagles. That will make it a complete revelation for the former Pepsi Academy starlet.
If he does get a season where he plays 30+ matches in good condition, then there will be no stopping him. The game against Argentina at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa showed how good this chap can be. For the first 30 minutes, Jonas Gutierrez, who played at right-back had to resort to foul tactics to stop the Nigerian, who operated from the left wing – another of his pluses.
He can play anywhere in the front line and can also play in the hole. If he hits his stride with Schalke, then expect the likes of Bayern Munich to come calling.
Nosa Igiebor is still a little known name in this shores but he is a very skilful player nonetheless. The former U-23 captain is a modern day midfielder, who can operate between the lines or as a foil for the main striker.
Currently playing in Israel with Hapoel Tel Aviv, he is currently in talks with some clubs in the La Liga over a proposed move. Aged just 22, the Delta-born midfielder is expected to hit the high notes this season – either in Israel or in Spain.
The former Lillestrom star is highly regarded in Israel but he is yet to fully show his capabilities with the national team.
Distinctly left-footed, the 21-year old plays a multitude of positions for Italian giants, Internazionale, but he wants to build his reputation as a box-to-box midfielder capable of doing everything.
Last season, he played 27 matches but came on as a substitute in 16 of that total and was used mostly on the left wing to protect the full-back thereby not helped in developing his offensive ability. The objective this season is to play more as the likes of Esteban Cambiasso get older though he will face tough opposition from Freddy Guarin, who also likes to play centrally in midfield.
He has had groin, pelvis and knee injuries aplenty but like Jack Rodwell, it has been described as growing up strains on the body of a professional athlete.
All can clearly remember when he broke into the limelight in 2008 and almost single-handedly led Everton to Europa League triumph. Since then he has made 104 appearances in the league and scored just 12 goals.
The Olympic silver medallist is built like a tank, when fit is very difficult to play against and he will be hoping to cause a stir this season with his size and more importantly with goals.
|JOHN MIKEL OBI
John Obi Mikel has been on the scene so long that people forget that he is only 25 years old. A midfielder that divides opinions – whether with his club in England or with the Super Eagles; one thing is undeniable, the chap has talent.
Another Pepsi Academy graduate, Obi cemented his name in Chelsea folklore when he helped the Blues triumph in Europe and arguably played his best game ever in a Blue shirt in the Uefa Champions League final against Bayern Munich in May.
So this season, with Roberto Di Matteo fully at the helms, the Nigerian is expected to cement his place and shame all his doubters.
For the Super Eagles, he needs a change of attitude and the fans will quickly forgive him when they see him striving to help his country win laurels not just coasting through matches as he has been accused of doing in the past.
He has also been a victim of serious injuries in the past but his trickery and eye for goal are world class.
Right now, he is with Villarreal in Spain’s second tier though he played on loan with Granada last season.
He needs to find a club where he can call home and finally deliver on the huge promise.
He could still leave Spain for Turkey if transfer speculations are to be believed but anywhere he plays this coming season – the only thing that will stop Uche is the opposition's net.
Having taken a wife in the summer, it is expected that a new level of maturity will have dawned on the player as he tries to emulate his first season in the Premiership when he won two Player of the Month awards.
Ahmed Musa is the quintessential Nigerian flying winger who made the move from the Netherlands seamlessly into the squad of CSKA Moscow. He has much to deliver this second season in a high profile club to make the expected progress.
He possesses all the attributes to bring success – humility, concentration and application. He just needs to understand critical decision making as he approaches the opposition and then he will become every defender’s nightmare.
He has not started the new season as brightly as he did last term but with a long term injury to CSKA’s top striker, Serge Doumbia, the Nigerian will get more than enough opportunities to show his worth.