Simy Nwankwo, Obafemi MartinsGoal/Getty

Simy is no Martins, but Crotone man equally packs a punch

Simy faced a losing battle immediately lowly Crotone secured automatic promotion to Serie A post-lockdown last year, with many questioning whether the towering striker could thrive in the big time with the Pythagoreans.

After rather indifferent campaigns in 2016/17 and the following season, the jury was out on the 28-year-old.

If anyone had intimated last year that the forward — who netted only three and seven times in both top flight seasons — was going to be a handful of goals behind Cristiano Ronaldo (25) and Romelu Lukaku (21) and ahead of Ciro Immobile (18) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (15) in the scoring charts with five games remaining, there may have been a few cackles.

The mere incredulity at the suggestion meant Simy was already up against it before a ball was kicked.

Given Giovanni Stroppa’s predisposition for a possession-based style, the Pythagoreans were tipped to have a tough campaign in Serie A and Simy’s productivity was predicted to dip in 2020/21.

He netted 20 Serie B goals last term, but is now a goal away from matching that haul, and two goals from supplanting the highest ever league return of his career.

This was not expected to happen, especially not at a team with Crotone’s dearth of resources.

The upshot of the 28-year-old’s return means he has already surpassed Obafemi Martins’ 28-goal Serie A total set 15 years ago.

To truly understand the height of the Nigerian’s achievement, it is worth noting that Martins’ goals between 2002 and 2006 were for a gifted Inter Milan side that never finished lower than fourth in that period, winning the Scudetto in 05/06.

Obafemi Martins Inter 2006Getty

While the aforementioned fact is accompanied with the caveat that the majority of the ex-Super Eagle’s strikes in the early 2000s came as a teenager, the talent in that Inter side is streets ahead of Crotone’s in 2020.

Simy, soon to turn 29, is no wonderkid, may never play in the semi-final of the Champions League and is unlikely to be signed by Newcastle United to potentially fill Alan Shearer’s boots, but he packs a punch, nonetheless.

He accepts his weaknesses but trusts in his strengths. He knows he’s incomparable to Lionel Messi and Cristiano, still, he’s netted seven and six fewer goals than both respectively in league football this year.

For even more context, the legendary Barcelona star’s return has come from 169 shots while the Juventus forward has attempted 20 fewer than the South American.

By contrast, Crotone’s top scorer’s shot count is 47 and his 19 goals have come from 21 efforts on target. Only Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder (18 goals from 21 shots on target) and Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic (17 goals from 28 attempts on target) have scored as many from few shots among the 20 top scorers in Europe’s major leagues.

Nwankwo Simy Crotone SampdoriaGetty Images

“I may not be the most technically refined, for some I am even poor: it is not a problem,” Simy said this week, as per Alfredo Pedulla. “I'm Simy, I'm almost two metres tall and this gives me advantages and disadvantages as well. With my feet and my head, I reach where others can't, but in the tight spaces I know I'm not Messi. When I get the ball, I have to hit it.”

Crotone may suffer the ignominy of immediate relegation this weekend against champions-elect Inter who come to town on Saturday evening. The encounter brings Simy face to face with Lukaku, whose four-game drought hasn’t hindered Antonio Conte’s march towards the Nerazzurri’s first Scudetto since 2010.

The Pythagoreans have excited all year but particularly took it up a notch since Serse Cosmi’s arrived in March.

Having become a bit-part player under Stroppa, Simy has repaid Cosmi’s faith with 12 goals since the start of March, accounting for 63 percent of his 19 goals to benefit from the 62-year-old throwing caution to the wind and Crotone’s uncanny knack for winning penalties.

Be that as it may, Inter’s recent defensive meanness could thwart the in-form Simy and ruin the Calabria outfit’s day at the Stadio Ezio Scida. The visitors have won seven of their last nine games by one goal, winning four of that series 1-0, which could be the kryptonite of a side that’s averaged 2.1 goals in the same period under Cosmi.

Simy is no Messi or Cristiano; heck he probably isn’t comparable to Martins in his pomp, yet he continues to amaze with his unrelenting consistency. As he eventually succeeds the ex-Nigeria man as the nation’s top scorer in Serie A history, the accomplishment deserves to be praised to high heaven!