Victor Osimhen is one of the most sought-after players in the world right now with the likes of Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea all rumoured to be interested in the Nigerian striker. He had an incredible season with Napoli in 2022/23, netting 26 times in 32 league games as Gli Azzurri won their first Serie A title in over 30 years.
The link he formed with Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was one of the best seen in a single season in Serie A and with Osimhen spearheading the attack there was no stopping Napoli in their hunt for the title.
There is a lot more of talent coming out of Nigeria, however. Let’s take a look at the nation’s most promising youth players.
At 22-years-old, Alhassan Yusuf is just about to enter the most important stage of his career but is still young and upcoming. He joined Belgian First Division club Royal Antwerp back in 2021 and has become a lynchpin in their midfield ever since. His efforts this past season helped Antwerp to the league and cup double, their league win being their first in 65 years.
He comes with bags of energy and intelligence, frequently breaking downplay before recycling possession to the forwards to start attacks. He is yet to make his debut for the national team but with African Cup of Nations qualifiers coming up in September he is a shoe in for another callup after being named in the squad for friendlies last year, though he remained on the bench. Football betting odds are certainly a reflection of his stunning performances.
Although he has already represented England at youth level, 21-year-old Arsenal goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo is eligible for Nigeria through his parents. The 6-foot-6 shot stopper spent last season on loan between two different clubs. He started the year at League Two club Crewe Alexandra and impressed, keeping 10 clean sheets in 26 appearances. Feeling he needed to be tested at a higher level, he was recalled by Arsenal in mid-January and almost immediately was sent back out on loan to Sturm Graz in the Austrian Football Bundesliga. He further impressed with six clean sheets in 16 appearances as well as winning the Austrian Cup with Sturm Graz beating SK Rapid Wien 2-0 in the final. There is hope that Okonkwo will declare for Nigeria as his burgeoning career continues.
First bursting on the scene in Denmark with Midtjylland, Raphael Onyedika is proving to be a top Nigerian in talent in Europe. He made his debut for the club in the Summer of 2021 at the age of 20 and then became one of the first names on the team sheet for the rest of the season. He caught the eye of Club Brugge in Belgium the following Summer, signing for a fee thought to be around €9.5 million. He slotted into midfield immediately and can operate in defence as well. He made 26 league appearances as well as seven in the Champions League with his defensive abilities integral to Club Brugge’s style of play.
The first player on this list yet to have made a senior appearance, AC Milan’s Nigerian midfielder comes with bags of promise. The 18-year-old was picked up by AC in 2018 when he was spotted playing for Prince Kazeem Eletu Academy in Lagos, earning him a scholarship with the Italian giants. Operating as a deep playmaker in front of a back four, Eletu was promoted to captain of the u19s side this past season and impressed the I Rossoneri so much that he signed his first senior deal with the club.
Under the tutelage of Primavera’s Ignazio Abate, he has gone from strength to strength for Milan’s youth side so far. His passing is central to their style of play and fans and personnel alike have very high hopes for the youngster.
Another Premier League player eligible to play for Nigeria through his parents, Carney Chukwuemeka had a big breakthrough season at Chelsea last year after signing from Aston Villa in the Summer. He made 14 appearances for The Blues, mainly off the bench, but looked impressive in each of his performances. An excellent ball carrier, his skill, agility and dribbling look electric already at just 19-years-old and there is still plenty more to come. Looking ahead to 2023/24, there is every chance that new Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino could hand further opportunities to the youngster as he looks to nail down a regular starting place in the squad. Although like Okonkwo he has already appeared at youth level for England, should his form continue into next season the Super Eagles may want to strike early in handing him his first senior international cap.
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