When it comes to African football, few countries have produced high-quality players like Nigeria. Egypt may have Mo Salah, Morocco may have Achraf Hakimi, and Cameroon may have André Onana, but Nigeria’s Flying Eagles count stars like Victor Osimhen and Wilfred Ndidi in their numbers.
There’s also Odion Ighalo, Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis, Samuel Chukwueze, Michael Obafemi Oluwaduroti (born in Ireland to Nigerian parents), Umar Sadiq, Alex Iwobi, and Moses Simon. Each competes in the world’s highest tier of club football across Europe, as well as the Flying Eagles national team.
Two of Nigeria’s biggest names are young talents at the start of their careers: Victor Osimhen and Wilfred Ndidi. With Osimhen making waves in Serie A and Ndidi earning a reputation as a formidable midfielder in Premier League, Nigeria’s current generation of athletic talent has a promising future in the top tier of football.
Not only have Osimhen and Ndidi earned the attention of fans, but they’ve also caught the eye of pundits offering betting odds for all major sports. With both players at the start of their career, analysts will keep a close eye on how both develop in the coming years, with special attention to their leadership qualities on the pitch.
With long-time star Ighalo set to head to the Middle East to continue his career, it seems that Osimhen and Ndidi are the future of Super Eagles in European club play. With Osimhen comfortable in Serie A, could Ndidi make a play to join reigning Premier League champs at Liverpool?
Ndidi Catches England’s Eye
After only two years with Belgian Pro League club Genk, Ndidi transferred to Leicester on a £17 million deal. The January transfer window left the defensive midfielder little time to adjust to the big leagues before making his debut in England only two days after the deal was confirmed.
His first goal came from a long-range shot as Leicester battled Derby County. From there, Ndidi was off to the races. His first brush with Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp came from a match in February of 2017, when Ndidi won 11 of his 14 tackles against the club.
Since joining Leicester, Ndidi has become a fan favorite for his consistent player and his ability to transform into a striker. Leicester staff, including manage Brendan Rodgers, now believe Ndidi is one of the most promising players in the Premier League—especially for his help defeating Liverpool in a 13 February faceoff.
Klopp May See the Missing Link
The 3-1 Leicester win against last year’s Premier League champions came as a shock to many football fans. The continued breakdown of Klopp’s midfield was on full display—as was Ndidi’s cool-headed leadership in the midfield.
Despite shooting less and controlling the ball less than Liverpool, Leicester came away from a win against the Reds. Though many pointed to breakdowns from Liverpool’s goalkeeper and crucial absences, Ndidi won five tackles in the match, easily passing the four combined tackles from Liverpool’s midfield line consisting of Thiago, Wijnaldum, Jones, and Milner.
Ndidi Has Options
Ndidi is easily surpassing Premier League records this season. He’s currently at the top of the leaderboard for ball recoveries, tackles won, and possession won among midfielders who have played 10 or more matches this season.
Ndidi is particularly revered for his ability to recover the ball, which can be the difference that helps teams come back. In particular, Liverpool fans disappointed with the midfield’s breakdown are looking at the Nigerian as a potential savior—though it’s unclear if Klopp is also onboard.
Should the Reds make a move for the midfielder, it’s likely Leicester would ask the club to fork up a ridiculous amount of money for the budding star. Ultimately, Ndidi may be forced to push Leicester for a transfer, as Rodgers fights to keep his star.
However, it’s still unclear if Ndidi would opt to leave the Foxes to pursue a career under Klopp. Undoubtedly, the player would evolve under a coach like Klopp, but he may also opt to keep working to turn Leicester into a championship team.