Nigerian players expectedly made huge impact in foreign leagues during the 2015/16 season. Group Sports Editor, GANIYU SALMAN, in this piece, highlights some of the outstanding Nigerian players at the just-ended season in Europe and their exploits.
The former junior international was a delight to watch in his debut season with FK Austria Wien. He finished with 13 goals in the Austrian Bundesliga last season.
Olanrewaju, who is eyeing a call-up to the Super Eagles after playing in the FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cups, emerged the second highest scorer in his team behind Alexander Gorgon.
He netted a brace for Austria Wien which finished third on the table.
Olanrewaju, a former Maccabi Netanya of Israel player had 34 appearances in the colours of the Austrian side last season.
However, the exploits of the Marvellous Academy of Ibadan product have not attracted the national team handlers attention for the Super Eagles.
ARGUABLY, Ighalo remains on top of the ladder following his five-star performance with newly-promoted English Premier League sides, Watford.
Ighalo, finished the season among the top scorers in the EPL with 15 goals. This feat made him to become the second Nigerian player to have scored 15 EPL goals in a season after Osaze Odemwingie, while he was short of a goal to equal Yakubu Ayegbeni’s EPL goal record of 16 in a season with Portsmouth.
Save for his goal against Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge which was later recorded as an own goal by Gary Cahill, the Edo State-born Nigerian international would have equalled Ayegbeni’s record in the EPL last season. Ishalo finished with 17 goals in 42 appearances at the end of the season.
His awesome goal scoring instinct in no small way helped the Hornets to stay afloat right from match day one to the end, as offers kept coming for him to leave the Vicarage Road.
Ighalo formed a solid combination with his captain, Troy Deeney to give their manager, Quique Sanchez Flores cause to be restful even before the EPL ended though, Flores contract was not renewed by the team management.
He emerged the best striker in England’s top four leagues at the end of 2015 having scored 30 goals right from the English Championship to the premiership. No wonder, he was crowned the Premier League Player of the Month for December 2015. The former Flying Eagles captain will always be remembered for his famous goal against Arsenal at the Emirates in the quarter-final of the FA Cup which helped Watford to a 2-1 victory.
He also scored a brace on three occasions last season against Newcastle United, West Ham and Liverpool.
At the international level, Ighalo after being first snubbed by the erstwhile Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh, regained his shirt and had a goal in the 3-1 drubbing of Luxembourg in a friendly in May this year.
He is listed among the overage players to be considered for the Rio Olympics.
Musa for the third time inspired CSKA Moscow to capture the Russian Premier League title last season.
The Nigerian international who joined CSKA five years ago also emerged the team’s top scorer with 13 goals in 30 league appearances and 18 in all competitions last season.
Following his exploits with the Russian team, a number of offers came the way of the former Kano Pillars star including one from the reigning EPL Premier League champions, Leicester City.
In his debut season, Nigerian Anthony Nwakaeme was equally instrumental in the triumph of Hapoel Beer Sheva in Israel.
Nwakaeme who had a compatriot, John Ogu as team-mate netted 11 goals in 34 league appearances to emerge the team’s second highest goalscorer behind Elyaniv Barda who had 14 goals.
After an uneventful season with West Brom, Ideye dumped the EPL side for Olympiakos of Greece where he ragained his scoring form which aided his team to capture the league title.
The Edo State-born forward featured in the group stage of the Champions League for the Greek side and finished the season with 10 goals in 24 appearances.
“A big thank you to all who have supported us through this journey. We are champions,” Ideye, a former Dynamo Kiev player had tweeted after his team’s triumph in Greece.
“Great and emotional day for me. The last time I felt this way was at AFCON 2013. So Excited! first league win in my career.”
Ideye, is also set to feature in the UEFA Champions League next season, as his team has secured automatic spot in the glamorous championship.
Last October, Ideye boosted Olympiakos dream of reaching the UEFA Champions League knockout stages with a 79th minute’s superb goal at Dinamo Zagreb.
Ogu inspired Hapoel Beer Sheva to win the Israeli league title last season.
The Nigeria international midfielder though only scored four goals in 34 league appearances, yet was instrumental in the league triumph of Hapoel.
Following his impressive performance, Ogu clinched the best foreign player award in the Israeli league, while he also finished as the third best player of the season.
The youthful striker hits the headlines with AS Roma last season after joining the Primavera side on loan from Spezia Calcio FC of Italy.
Sadiq, a product of Abuja Football College academy who made his Serie A debut last November against Bologna, has since become a toast of a number of top clubs.
His exploits attracted the EPL giants, Arsenal, which reportedly dangled £12 million before his team, while Bundlesiga side Borussia Dortmund, also showed interest in the Nigerian player among others.
The Kaduna State-born player netted 21 goals in 24 competitive games last season, including two in Serie A for AS Roma and he is on Nigeria’s 35-man provisional squad for the Rio 2016.
…to be continued