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2015 REVIEW: 10 Standout Nigerian Footballers Of The Year

The year 2015 is gradually coming to an end and there are some Nigerian football stars who stood out in the outgoing year with great performances for clubs and country.

These stars could do much more before December 31 2015 with more league games to be played mostly across Europe, but they have already proven to be among the stars.

In continuation of Completesportsnigeria.com's 2015 REVIEW,  IZUCHUKWU OKOSI reviews the wonderful contributions thus far of these Nigerian stars and starlets…


ODION IGHALO
Club: Watford (England)
Position: Forward
D.O.B: 16 June, 1989
Goals Scored In 2015: 28 (26 for club, 2 for country)

Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo is Watford's top scorer this season with 10 goals in 16 games. The former Udinese and Granada star has created 18 attempts for his club.  Ighalo has an average pass accuracy of 73.8% so far this term. His contributions so far mean he has contributed 53% to his team's run thus far. He has played a total of 1,324 minutes so far, 706 minutes less than he played last season that came to an end in May 2015.  Ighalo made the Barclays Premier League Team of the Week for the previous weekend.

Before the fine season Ighalo has had so far, his goals earlier in the year, helped in no small way to ensure that the Clarets gained promotion to the English Premier League.

Ighalo has scored 26 league goals in 2015 (16 in the Championship,  10 in the Premier League), making him the top scoring player in all four professional tiers of English football this year.

On the international front, Ighalo has become a regular in the Super Eagles as he has been part of the team's 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and 2018 World Cup qualifiers, as well as friendly matches against DR Congo, Cameroon and Niger.

ANTHONY UJAH
Club: Weder Bremen (Germany)
Position: Forward
D.O.B: 14 October, 1990
Goals Scored In 2015: 13

As at May 2015 Anthony Ujah scored about 10 Bundesliga  goals for former club Cologne but four came in the 2015 calendar year alone. He made the move to Weder Bremen in the summer where he has continued to flourish.

The Nigerian forward has so far notched seven league goals for his team and has proven to be one of Africa's best exports to Germany.

Ujah was particularly impressive in the DFB-Pokal where he helped  Werder to a 1–0 victory over his former club Cologne in the second round stages.

So far, as the year 2015 gradually comes to the end, he has scored seven goals in 15 Bundesliga matches with the possibility for many more to come from the former Lillestrom of Norway man.

Ujah has not had it all smooth-sailing in the Nigerian national in the year under review but he sure possesses the ability to become an integral member of the Super Eagles.


OBAFEMI MARTINS
Club: Seattle Sounders (USA)
Position: Forward
D.O.B: 28 October 1984
Goals Scored In 2015: 15

Super Eagles striker Obafemi Martins was recently recalled to the Nigerian national team by Sunday Oliseh. He scored 15 MLS goals in 24 appearances for Seattle Sounders this year.
Martins' team had scored a total of 50 goals. Martins had a total of four assists and was awarded the Man-of-the-Match prize once, making 30% contribution to his team's course. He had 76% passing accuracy.

Martins played for 90 minutes in his last 10 games of the year between September 6th to November 9th, 2015.

The 31-year-old was in action for 2,105 minutes. He started 23 of those games under review.

He made the MLS All-Star Team of the Year 2015, a feat he achieved the previous year including claiming the MLS Goal of the Year in 2014.


VICTOR OSIMHEN
Club: Ultimate Strikers Academy (Nigeria)
Position: Forward
D.O.B: 29 December, 1998
Goals Scored In 2015: 14 (for Nigeria at the African U-17 Championship and U-17 World Cup)


The Golden Eaglets squad won the Chile 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup for the fifth time in history and in doing so, produced a new star in Nigeria's conveyance belt of talented youngsters.
Victor Osimhen emerged the top scorer of the tournament and ultimately in the history of the Cadet World Cup as he scored ten goals in seven games to beat the earlier record held by the duo of Sinama Pongolle of France and Cote d' Ivoire's Soulleymaye Coulibaly, thereby ensuring he scored in every game Nigeria played in Chile.

Osimhen was awarded the Silver boot winner by FIFA in addition with his top scorer's award.

He was also in the Eaglets' squad to the CAF U-17 Championship in Niger Republic where the team coached by Emmanuel Amuneke could only finish in fourth place to create doubts in the minds of Nigerians despite the attacking talents of Osimhen and others. Osimhen was top scorer at the U-17 Championship with four goals.

Osimhen, reportedly wanted by Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League, is also part of the Nigerian U-23 side that achieved qualification to the 2016 Olympics, playing a cameo role in the game against Algeria and more tellingly against hosts Senegal in the semi-finals which the U-23 Eagles won 1-0.  He also featured in the 1-0 defeat of Algeria in the final.

KELECHI NWAKALI
Club: Unattached
Position: Midfield
D.O.B: 5 June 1998
Goals Scored In 2015: 6 (for Nigeria at the African U-17 Championship and U-17 World Cup)

Kelechi Nwakali emerged the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, winning the Golden Ball prize.

The Nigerian midfield was made a beauty to watch chiefly because of the play-making and creative skills of the youngster whose style of play has been compared in some quarters with that of Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo. He scored three goals in Chile and another three at the CAF U-17 Championship in Niger.

Nwakali thus becomes one of the footballing  brothers to have won the FIFA U-17 World Cup. His older sibling, Chidiebere, was one of the best talents at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates when Nigeria won the title for the fourth time in an Asian country.

Nwakali was also part of the team that he captained just like in Chile, to the CAF 17  Youth Championship in Niger Republic.

He has reportedly attracted interest from Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.


KELECHI IHEANACHO
Club: Manchester City (England)
Position: Forward
D.O.B: 3 October 1996
Goals Scored In 2015: 5

Manchester City snapped up Kelechi Iheanacho after Nigeria's conquering U-17 World Cup title in 2013 in the United Arab Emirates.

Iheanacho was also in the Flying Eagles squad that crashed out in the quarter-finals stage of the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

These days, the left-footed striker is rubbing shoulders with some of the best players in the English top flight as he has gained the trust of manager Manuel Pellegrini who now features him regularly, albeit mostly from the substitutes' bench.

This season, the forward scored in the League Cup for his club against Crystal Palace and Hull City alongside three EPL goals in 13 games, the last against Swansea City on Saturday, December 12.

 These kind of performances prompted Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh to extend an invitation to him to the senior national team for the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Swaziland. He has played 175 minutes so far for City.

The former youth international was only promoted to the first team this season (2015/2016) so did not play earlier in the calendar year of 2015.

GBOLAHAN SALAMI

Club: Warri Wolves (Nigeria)
Position: Forward
D.O.B: 15 April 1991
Goals Scored In 2015: 18 (1 goal for Nigeria, 17 for Warri Wolves)


Warri Wolves striker Gbolahan. Salami became the top scorer of the 2014/15 Nigeria Professional Football League after the conclusion of the league in November 2015 with 17 goals, one more than Tunde Adeniji who finished the season with 16 goals. Salami won the Rashidi Yekini Highest goalscorer award in honour of the late legend of Nigerian football.

The strong and powerful striker in 2015 also helped his club qualify for the CAF Champions League as they finished in second place behind Enyimba who were champions.

Salami scored one of Nigeria's goals in the 2-0 victory against the Mena of Chad in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna on June 13, 2015.

It was an important result for Nigeria who are in battle with Egypt for the ticket from that group. He is the captain of the home-based Super Eagles.

CARL IKEME
Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers (England)
Position: Goalkeeper
D.O.B: 8 June, 1986
Clean Sheets In 2015: 6

Following the retirement of erstwhile Super Eagles goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama from the Nigerian national team, Wolverhampton Wanderers' Carl  Ikeme was handed an opportunity to become the first choice Nigerian keeper.

Ikeme took up the challenge and made his debut against Tanzania on September 5, 2015 in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Tanzania.

He has been in goal for Wolves seven times this season. Last season (2014/15) he was in action 33 times, seeing action for 2,970 minutes in total. So far, after Friday's game (December 11, 2015) against Nottingham Forest, Ikeme has played for 663 minutes of club football.


AUSTIN OBORAKPO
Club: Abia Warriors (Nigeria)
Position: Defender

The Abia Warriors skipper has been compared to former Super Eagles defender Uche Okechukwu.

Oborakpo led Abia Warriors to the final of the 2015 Abia State FA Cup but the team lost 5-4 on penalties with Oborakpo the only player from his club to lose his spot kick.

Oborakpo is now a mainstay in the home-based Super Eagles team and is expected to play an important part in the Eagles' campaign at the 2016 Championship for African Nations (CHAN) in Rwanda.

BLESSING ELEKE
Club: ND Gorica (Slovenia)
Position: Forward
D.OB: 5 March, 1996
Goals Scored In 2015: 14

Blessing  Eleke made three appearances for his Slovenian club  in the 2014/15 season that ended in May 2015 following his signing in February.

During this period, he scored three league goals.  The unknown Nigerian star has already notched up 11 goals in nine league matches in the current season that has gone on a break after Saturday's (December 12, 2015) league games. The Slovenian league resumes in February 2016.

The scoring statistics are impressive and he could turn out to be a good asset for Nigeria in the nearest future.

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One Comments

  1. To whom may have writing this artikel about the nigerian player of the year are you following spanish La Liga?do you forget there is a certain Success Isaac of Granada?i cannot say you are bias please be fair enough so that we the reader and followers of Nigerian Football/Footballers can be happy with you people´s journalism…

    Thanks.

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