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NFF Awards 2018: Young Player of the Year Nominees

21:28 GMT+3 18/02/2018
Stephen Odey - Zurich
Goal examines the contenders for the 2018 NFF Young Player of the Year award; which of this trio are you backing for the inaugural gong?


Three of the most precociously talented Nigerian players have been shortlisted for the Best Young Player category of the inaugural NFF Awards which takes place in Lagos on February 19.

FC Zurich forward Stephen Odey and two African Nations Championship silver-medal winners, Ikouwem Udoh and Nur Mohammed, complete the trio jostling for the honours, but which of the three are favourite for the maiden prize?

Stephen Odey

As awards go, with its contemporary value on numbers over dazzling impacts, Odey is perhaps the frontrunner of the three nominees.

The hitman’s 18 goals for MFM in the 2016-17 season was enough to get them on track for a first continental spot, which also saw the city of Lagos compete against Africa's finest for the first time in 14 years.

The young forward exudes a Harry Kane-like demeanour, and just like the Englishman, he gets himself into dangerous areas to put finishing touches to the free-flowing blueprint of his team.

Asides his output, he was impactful and was one-third of MFM’s famous O3, which consisted of diminutive midfielder Chukwuka Onuwa, marauding winger Sikiru Olatunbosun and Odey himself. The height of his impact was the telepathic flick to Olatunbosun to score an internet-breaking volley against Enugu Rangers last year.

Now at FC Zurich, contrary to most Nigerian league exports, the striker has held off the travails of settling down in his new team - coming from the reserves to become a first-team player.

Remarkably, he's scored two goals from three league starts and, should Ulrich Forte’s third-placed side continue to churn out positive results, a chance to show himself to a broader European audience awaits him next season.

Ikouwem Udoh

Despite the overwhelming, sensational Rory Delap-esque narratives around Daniel Itodo, once Udoh replaced him at the CHAN, the first-choice left-back was forgotten.

Udoh’s performances at the African Nations Championship surely helped his cause for nomination in this category.

Last season, the left-back, recently promoted to the first team, revelled in his role as Chima Akas’s deputy at Enyimba, and his input in 16 top-flight outings were also crucial as the People's Elephant finish third in the league to bag a return to continental action.

He duly secured a spot on the plane to Morocco, and took his chance in the quarter-final against Angola when first-choice left-back Itodo got injured. He made up for the deficiencies of the Plateau United man in possession.

His close control, willingness to provide width upfront as a second winger and attentiveness to his primary defensive duties ensured he was more than a backup as Salisu Yusuf’s side journeyed all the way to the final.

The 20-year-old will return to Enyimba brimming with confidence as he seeks to displace newly signed Benjamin Francis to claim a regular spot in Paul Aigbogun’s setup, in just his sophomore outing in the NPFL.

It has been a remarkable year for the youngster!

Nur Mohammed

Nur is the youngest of the pack as he continues a remarkable 2018, having been a surprise inclusion in Salisu Yusuf's squad for the CHAN.

The decision to include a 15-year-old who has no top-flight outings under his belt and only features for El-Kanemi Warriors’ feeder side was seen as ridiculous by some considering the fact that forwards such as Sikiru Olatunbosun, Victor Mbaoma and Plateau United’s new gem Tosin Omoyele were snubbed.

The youngster, however, delivered a few encouraging performances when handed the opportunity to impress in Morocco.

He made his bow in the group opener against Rwanda and went on to see more actions as Nigeria finished second to the hosts.

Perhaps he's the outsider on the list, but as the years progress and as he continues his development process at El-Kanemi, the talented 15-year-old is likely to bag awards in this category.