The 2021-22 season has just come to an end in the major European leagues and while the winners are still in a celebratory mood, there is also delight among the teams that escaped the dreaded relegation.
With a number of African players having suffered the drop, GOAL profiles six stars from the continent who played a key part in ensuring the survival missions of their sides were a success.
The Nigeria forward was part of the Everton side that escaped relegation from the Premier League with one match to go when Frank Lampard’s men came from two goals down to beat Crystal Palace 3-2 at Goodison Park on May 19.
Iwobi has been a key part of the Everton line-up as they battled to survive, having spent most of 2022 in the bottom five, and his tenacity and drive did not just win him admirers but also helped his side to safety.
The former Ghana international was part of a Hertha Berlin side that had their backs against the wall after finding themselves trailing 1-0 to Hamburg in the Bundesliga relegation playoff last week. Boateng played 90 minutes on Monday as goals from Dedryck Boyata and Marvin Plattenhardt saw Felix Magath’s men cancel out Hamburg’s first-leg advantage to win 2-1 on aggregate and maintain their top-flight status while their rivals remained in the second tier.
Sparta Rotterdam would still not be an Eredivisie side were it not for the brilliance of the Super Eagles goalkeeper. Okoye was instrumental for his side in the final match of the season when he made four key saves against Heracles Almelo as Sparta got the result they needed, winning 3-1 to escape relegation.
Okoye is set to join now relegated Premier League side Watford but Sparta fans know just how important he has been and expressed this by giving him a befitting sendoff.
Like Iwobi, the Mali international was among the catalysts for Everton’s comeback victory over Palace after putting in a stellar show in midfield especially in the second half after easily being bypassed by their opponents in the first 45 minutes.
Doucoure put in numerous tackles while winning fouls as Everton troubled Palace and made life difficult for them in the second 45 minutes when they scored the three goals to get the win they required to survive.
The 28-year-old Ghana international scored six goals as Spezia did just enough to escape relegation from Serie A after looking like they would go down for most of the season. Gyasi scored important goals especially against fellow strugglers Venezia and Udinese as Thaigo Motta’s side collected the points they needed to finish the season in 16th place with 36 points, five away from the relegation zone.
The 22-year-old Nigeria forward was instrumental in French side FC Lorient escaping relegation from Ligue 1 by just four points. Moffi was his side’s top scorer with eight goals and the weight of his strikes was truly felt as they helped Lorient secure another season in the top flight after battling survival for most of the 2021-22 campaign. Lorient finished 16th with 36 points, four better than 18th-placed AS St Etienne.