The English Premier League season kicks off this weekend and the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Michy Batshuayi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Sofiane Fegouli and Ahmed Musa are just a few of the new stars lined up to heighten the excitement.
But Completesportsnigeria.com’s JOHNNY EDWARD is looking at players of Nigerian heritage about to set the most exciting league in Europe alight.
He picks out 10, including veterans and youngsters…
ODION IGHALO (WATFORD)
The 27-year-old Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo, who scored 17 goals last season in all competitions, will be fired up when Watford take on Southampton at Saint Mary’s after he extended his contract at Vicarage Road.
The striker did well in his debut season and in his second season, Ighalo will definitely be a man to watch after proclaiming he is desperate to etch his name in the folklore of the Hornets.
AHMED MUSA (Leicester City)
Ahmed Musa has a big season ahead of him following a mouthwatering £18m summer move from CSKA Moscow to Leicester City.
Thirteen goals and four assists were a respectable return for Musa in the Russian League last season and if he can transport his pre-season form onto the EPL, he could be another star for Leicester City alongside Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. So far in his Leicester career he has scored twice in four games.
ALEX IWOBI (Arsenal)
Nigerian international Alex Iwobi graduated to the Arsenal first team under Arsene Wenger’s guidance in October last year and has since grown into one of the emerging talents for club and country. He scored twice, provided two assists and won one man-of-the match award in 13 EPL games last season. So much will be expected from Iwobi whose impressive performances relegated Theo Walcott to the bench last season.
Iwobi was one of the 67 homegrown debutants in the EPL top flight in the ‘Class of 2015-16’.
CHUBA AKPOM (Arsenal)
Chuba Akpom showed glimpses of his qualities away from the Arsenal squad last season at Hull City. The Nigerian-born striker scored three goals in 19 starts for the Tigers who returned to the top flight division for the coming season. Akpom was the Arsenal’s top scorer in pre-season and will be hoping to be given a chance in the Gunners main squad this season.
MIKEL OBI (Chelsea)
The career of Nigeria skipper Mikel Obi at Chelsea is synonymous with the ancient proverb that claims, “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays.”
Mikel is in his tenth season at Chelsea but will he survive under Antonio Conte’s reign following the arrival of N’Golo Kante? Mikel currently representing Nigeria at the Rio Olympics is unarguably the most successful Nigerian footballer player currently playing. Mikel has spent 10 years in West London, playing over 230 times for the Blues.
VICTOR MOSES (Chelsea)
Moses has a lot to prove at Chelsea if he eventually stays at Stamford Bridge this season. Having spent the last three seasons away on loan (at Liverpool, Stoke City and West Ham), the Nigerian winger has showed his class in pre-season for Blues but he faces competition from Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro and Juan Curdradro for a place in the starting line-up. He has scored one EPL goal for the Blues in 23 appearances.
ISAAC SUCCESS (Watford)
Unfortunately, this weekend Hornets fans won’t have an opportunity to see their record buy Isaac Success in action when Watford take on Southampton on Saturday.
The former Granada star is currently nursing a muscle strain. The 20-year-old comfortable as a winger, striker or a playmaker could prove an excellent foil for his compatriot Odon Ighalo who will be keenly watched by defenders this season.
OLA AINA (Chelsea)
Nigerian-born Ola Aina was one of the positives recorded by the Blues on their pre-season tour this term. The 19-year-old shone in his four pre-season outings at full-back and could be a quality back-up to the ageing Branislav Ivanovic. A versatile defender who can play all across the backline, he has been training regularly with the first team since the beginning of last season and is as comfortable with the ball at his feet as he is tracking opposition attackers. He was a key member of Chelsea’s all-conquering development squads with two UEFA Youth League titles and two FA Youth Cups to his name.
SEYI OJO (Liverpool)
Seyi Ojo played eight times in the Premier League last term and has featured regularly in this summer’s pre-season. Competition is fierce in the Reds attack but after showing his eagerness with a bright display against AC Milan Ojo will get his chance if he is not sent out on loan.
OVIE EJIARA (LIVERPOOL)
For Ovie Ejiara this could be the breakthrough campaign for one of the brightest talents in the Premier League. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder has been handed opportunities to excel in pre-season and it remains to be seen if he will be sent out on loan to develop or allowed to compete with the likes of Phillipe Coutinho, Adam Lallana et al.