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Ademola Lookman’s hat trick in the Europa League final, which helped Atalanta win their first trophy in over 60 years, is a testament to the rise of Nigerian strikers. 

But, as recent results and lacklustre performances have shown, having the abundant blessing of strikers comes with the curse of finding the right team balance. Who to pick and who to drop becomes the topic of conversation at diner tables and viewing centres.

Let’s take a look at the golden generation of Nigerian sharpshooters based on form and prowess.

Victor Osimhen (Napoli)

Victor Osimhen of Napoli is a highly sought-after player in Europe and is currently the crown jewel of Nigerian football. 

Like the great Diego Maradona, he has become a fan favourite in Naples thanks to his goal-scoring prowess. 

Osimhen led Napoli to their first Serie A championship in a long time with 26 league goals last season, earning him the Capocannoniere trophy as Serie A’s top scorer. 

In all competitions, he scored 31 goals, which enabled Napoli to get to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. 

Osimhen is a versatile goal scorer who can use his strength, speed, and extraordinary jumping ability to score goals with tap-ins, powerful shots, and towering headers.  

With 20 goals in 26 games, the lanky forward has by far the best goal ratio for the national team. He is already the 4th all-time goal scorer for the Super Eagles. 

The 24-year-old striker has scored five goals in Serie A so far and recently finished 8th in the Ballon d’Or rankings (the highest placing by a Nigerian player. He is also the front-runner for the CAF African Player of the Year Award.

Victor Boniface (Bayer Leverkusen)

The most recent revelation from Nigeria is undoubtedly Victor Boniface, who has the interest of elite European teams. The confident striker’s lightning-fast speed, impeccable footwork and knack for scoring goals have taken the Bundesliga by storm. 

He had fruitful stints at Bodø/Glimt in Norway and Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium, where he made a significant impression last season by finishing top scorer in the Europa League. 

Victor Boniface at Bayer Leverkusen
Source: PunchNG

Bayer Leverkusen made the wise decision to pay €20 million for his services. The 22-year-old made a blistering start to his Bayer Leverkusen career, ultimately playing a significant role in their Invincible season.

Victor Boniface became only the second-ever player — and first since Erling Haaland in January 2020 — to win both the Bundesliga Rookie of the Month and Player of the Month awards in the same month when he collected both gongs for August 2023. 

Boniface made his Super Eagles debut in the win over Sao Tome and Principe.

Ademola Lookman (Atalanta)

The Atalanta winger burst onto the scene from a very young age. Lookman’s ability to cause pure chaos to any defensive line is spellbinding in itself. 

Arriving at Atalanta after spells in the Bundesliga and EPL, the expectations for the 25-year-old were not high. 

Despite impressing during his loan spell at Leicester, the club’s reluctance to sign him on a permanent deal was a red flag. 

Source: LQDS

But that didn’t deter Atalanta from moving for his services. Lookman has been in good form since joining the club, scoring 17 goals in 44 appearances. 

His virtuoso performance at the UEFA Europa League final in Dublin will make him a folk hero in Bergamo.

Ademola Lookman was born in England to Nigerian parents and is eligible for the national teams of both countries. 

The Nigeria Football Federation announced in January 2020 that Lookman would be changing his international allegiance to Nigeria, despite his youth successes for England and his prior rejection of Nigeria’s offers. 

Lookman made his debut for Nigeria on 25 March 2022, in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier match against Ghana. He has two goals in 10 appearances for the Super Eagles.

Taiwo Awoniyi (Nottingham Forest)

Taiwo Awoniyi, who cost Nottingham Forest a record fee to sign from Union Berlin, has had a significant impact on the EPL. 

After the 2013 U-17 World Cup, Liverpool signed him before sending him out on numerous loan spells. He joined Union Berlin and was a prolific goal scorer. The Liverpool reject came back to England and signed for Nottingham Forest. 

Taiwo Awoniyi celebrating with Nigerian flag
Source: BBC

In the last four games of the season, Awoniyi scored six goals to help Forest maintain their Premier League status. He has scored in each of the first three games of the current 2023/2024 season, extending his scoring streak to seven league games. 

With 11 goal contributions since May 2023, only Erling Haaland and Mohamed Salah have contributed to more Premier League goals than Awoniyi (at the time of writing this). 

Terem Moffi (Nice)

Terem Moffi took a risk when he decided to sign with Nice rather than go after attention from the Premier League. He initially joined Nice on loan from Lorient, but he made enough of an impression to land a permanent transfer. 

Moffi demonstrated his goal-scoring ability last season by scoring 18 league goals. He has continued to play well into the current campaign, especially against French giants Paris Saint Germain (PSG). 

Terem Moffi celebrating a goal at Nice
Source: SoccerNet

In ten games with the Super Eagles at the international level, he has three goals to his account. His irresistible form might upset the cart when it comes to choosing a frontman for Nigeria.

Paul Onuachu (Trabzonspor)

Paul Onuachu joined Trabzonspor from Southampton on a terrible season-long loan and has been firing on all cylinders in the Turkish Super Lig. 

He is reviving his career in the Turkish league after a disappointing 12-game spell with the Saints, where he had no goal or assist to his name. 

Paul Onuachu at Trabzonspor
Source: Fotospor

Onuachu struck fear into the hearts of defenders while playing for Genk and Midtjylland. In Denmark, the striker scored 74 goals and made 23 assists, while his record of 85 goals and 10 assists in 134 games for Genk is even more impressive.

Gift Orban (Gent)

After finishing 2022 as the top scorer in Norway’s second division, Victor Orban gained international recognition with goals for Stabaek and Gent. 

In January, the 21-year-old joined Belgian side Gent. Since then, he has scored 26 goals in 31 games. 

Orban came into the limelight after his 205-second hat-trick against Istanbul Basaksehir in the UEFA Europa Conference League last season, which is the fastest in any UEFA club competition. 

Gift Orban celebrating a goal for Genk
Source: The Athletic

Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham, Fulham, and other Premier League teams have expressed interest in Orban. The African Young Player nominee has scored 5 hat-tricks in 8 months. He is yet to make his international debut for the Super Eagles.

Emmanuel Dennis (İstanbul Başakşehir F.K.)

Emmanuel Dennis joined İstanbul Başakşehir F.K. on loan from Premier League club Nottingham Forest. 

The “Nigerian Neymar” got the attention of world football after scoring a brace for Club Brugge in a UEFA Champions League game against European giants Real Madrid. He celebrated the goals by doing the “Sui” celebration of Real Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Emmanuel Dennis
Source: Score Nigeria

However, for every reminder of his immense talent, there are several warnings of a player with apparent attitude problems. 

Some time ago, the striker refused to get on the bus before a Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund because someone had occupied his preferred seat. 

His move to Watford FC in the Premier League raised eyebrows. But he shut up all the haters by bagging 10 goals and six assists. 

Although Dennis’ displays could not help Watford avoid relegation, his performances got him a move to newly-promoted Nottingham Forest. After poor performance and attitude problems, he is now out on loan.

Dennis represented Nigeria at under-23 level before being called up to the senior team. He has scored only once in 8 appearances for the Super Eagles.

Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)

Kelechi “Seniorman” Iheanacho is one of the Super Eagles’ in-form forwards. The Leicester City forward has been in fine form this season for the Foxes in the Championship. 

The 2013 U-17 World Cup Golden Ball winner joined Manchester City after the spectacular tournament in UAE. He had the best goals-per-minute ratio of any player in the English Premier League. 

In 2017, he joined Leicester City for a reported fee of £25 million, which at the time was the highest transfer sum ever for a Nigerian player and the second-highest for an African player, behind Egyptian Mohamed Salah. ’

Iheanacho Kelechi celebrating goal for Leicester City
Source: Score Nigeria

Iheanacho played a key role in Leicester City’s 2020–21 FA Cup triumph, helping the team win the cup for the first time. He scored the only goal against his former team as Leicester won the FA Community Shield in 2021. 

He also helped Leicester to win automatic promotion back to the English Premier League for the 2024/2025 campaign.

Regarded as one of the Super Eagles’ most complete forwards, Kelechi Iheanacho is renowned for his vision, dribbling, speed and finishing. 

Iheanacho made his senior international debut for Nigeria in 2015. The Seniorman has since competed for his nation in both the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He has 15 goals for the Super Eagles.

Cyriel Dessers (Rangers FC)

Cyriel Dessers plays as a forward for Scottish Premiership club Rangers. Dessers has primarily played in Belgian and Dutch football throughout his club career. 

He was the top scorer in the Eredivisie during the 2019-20 season with Heracles Almelo. In the 2021-22 UEFA Europa Conference League, he once again topped the scoring charts and was even named in the competition’s Team of the Season while representing Feyenoord. 

Cyriel Dessers celebrating for Rangers
Source: beIN Sports

Born in Belgium to a Belgian father and a Nigerian mother, Dessers chose to represent Nigeria at the international level in December 2019. Earlier in his career, he received a call-up to the Belgium under-21 national team for a game against Moldova, but he was an unused substitute.

On 4 March 2020, Dessers was called up by Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr as part of the team invited for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying fixtures against Sierra Leone. Dessers made his international debut in a friendly 1–1 draw with Tunisia on 13 October 2020.

Samuel Chukwueze (AC Milan)

Samuel Chukwueze came to prominence during this time at Villareal. His crowing moments came during the A-grade performance at the Santiago Bernabeu, as well as scoring a vital goal to knock Bayern Munich out of the UEFA Champions League. 

AC Milan signed the Chukwueze during the summer. Despite scoring against Dortmund in a 3-1 loss, Chukwueze has struggled to settle in well for the Italian giants. 

Samuel Chukwueze celebrating for AC Milan
Source: Premium Times NG

Chukwueze made his debut for the Super Eagles in 2018. He represented Nigeria in the 2019 AFCON and scored his first goal in the quarter-final victory against South Africa. 

Although not a striker, Chukwueze is a potent goal threat who could play across the frontline. 

Honorable Mentions

Akor Adams (Montpellier)

Akor Adams has hit the ground running at Montpellier, chasing Kylian Mbappé in the Ligue 1 UberEats scoring charts and following in the footsteps of fellow Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen. 

He is yet to receive a call-up to the Super Eagles, but if he continues with this form, it will come sooner than later.

Isaac Success (Udinese)

Isaac Success plays as a forward for Seria A side, Udinese. Despite his immense talent not being in doubt, the former Nigerian U-17 star has been plagued with injuries throughout his career. 

In 2016, English side Watford forked out a club-record fee to bring the forward to Vicarage Road following his impressive run with Granada, but Success failed to live up to expectations. S

Success has had such poor form that he has 22 league goals in 193 appearances. On 23 March 2017, Success made his debut for Nigeria, coming on as a substitute in a 1–1 draw against Senegal at The Hive Stadium in London. He has 4 international caps for the Super Eagles.

Simy Nwankwo (Benevento)

Simy Nwankwo is a Nigerian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Serie A club Benevento on loan from Salernitana. The lanky forward was once one of the most formidable strikers in Italy, reaching double figures of league goals for Crotone. He made his debut for the Super Eagles in 2018 and represented Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup. 

Sadiq Umar (Real Sociedad)

Sadiq is a striker for Spanish side Real Sociedad. The story of Sadiq Umar is not the most conventional, but it remains nonetheless impressive. 

His recent move on deadline day from Almería to Real Sociedad is a testament to the mark he’s left in the country of media pundits. The forward possesses good technique and penalty box presence that terrorises defenders. 

In July 2016, Sadiq was named in Nigeria’s final 18-man squad for the 2016 Summer Olympics. He appeared in all six of his team’s games and scored four goals, including a brace in the third-place victory over Honduras. 

Sadiq has made 10 appearances for the Super Eagles and scored 1 goal.  

Is the Abundance of Nigerian Strikers a Blessing or Curse?

The abundance of top Nigerian strikers turns out to be a huge blessing for the African giants. But it is also a source of headache for any Super Eagles coach. 

With so many great strikers to select from, it’s going to be a tough decision. However, one thing is clear — whoever the coach picks will be eager to make an impression and assist the Super Eagles in capturing a fourth AFCON trophy or World Cup qualification.

Whatever the permutation, the Super Eagles are blessed with enough attacking talents to play any attacking system and dismantle any opposition, even though they fell short at the recent African Cup of Nations

Whether they’d get the combination right or waste a generation of top-level goal scorers, only time will tell.

Who wrote this?

Okpanku has been involved in several disputes that have been brought before the FIFA Tribunal. Additionally, he actively engages in grassroots coaching and strongly advocate for the dynamic nature of football.

Okpanku Chijioke
Okpanku has been involved in several disputes that have been brought before the FIFA Tribunal. Additionally, he actively engages in grassroots coaching and strongly advocate for the dynamic nature of football.

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