The national debut of relatively unknown youngsters Frank Onyeka and Samson Tijani, has shown that the national team is heavily tilting towards youths. This was initially buttressed at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where we had the youngest squad in the competition. After that, this was further proven at the AFCON where our average age dropped from 25.9 to 24.3, the third youngest in that competition.
Although both players, especially Onyeka, delivered very ordinary performances, Nigerians’ interest have piqued. So we have compiled a list of the best Nigerian attacking wonderkids very likely to break into the national team.
5. Jordan Attah Kadiri, 20
Kadiri is a centre forward who plays for Belgium second division side, Lommel SK. Although born in Idah, Kogi State, he moved from Nassarawa United in the NPFL in 2019 to Ostersunds where he started his European career. He directly contributed to 8 goals in 11 games in all completions in his debut season.
He started 2020/21 with 4 goal contributions in 11 league games in Sweden and got signed by by Belgian 2nd tier side Lommel. Although seemingly a downgrade, Lommel was recently acquired by City Football Group (owners of Man City) and have expressed ambition to gain promotion to the Jupiler League in a short period. He has failed to hit the back of the net in 6 games for his new side but some players need longer to adapt to new surroundings.
4. Chukwubuike Adamu, 19
Adamu is a striker who plays for FC Liefering in the Austrian 2nd tier. FC Liefering is a feeder team to Austrian powerhouse, RB Salzburg. He made his debut for them in 18/19 season and ended the season with 5 goals and 3 assists in 16 games.
He went better the next season with 16 goal contributions in 20 games. He also notched an extra 6 goals for RB Salzburg youth team in the UEFA Youth League. This season, he is in sizzling form, contributing 5 goals in the first 4 games. He is now in line to break into the Salzburg senior squad like Karim Adeyemi. Adamu has represented Austria in national youth competitions. He was born to Nigerian parents in the northern city of Kano and maintains regular contact with his extended family there. He lists Burna Boy as one of his favourite artists.
3. Paul Mukairu, 20 – Anderlecht
Born in the capital city of Abuja, Mukairu plays for Belgian side, Anderlecht, on loan from Turkish club, Antalyaspor as an ‘Advanced forward’. The AF is a centre forward role where the striker is saddled with both goal scoring and assisting responsibilities, and Mukairu just thrives at this. Last season he completed the 3rd most dribbles per 90 among Nigerians, behind only Chidera Ejuke and Anthony Nwaekeme and the 12th best in the Turkish league.
Although Mukairu’s goal contribution numbers are not eye-catching yet(4 in 27 games), age gives him the carte blanche to improve on this. He got his move to Anderlecht a week ago and has not yet debut for them. Anderlecht have an option to sign him permanently.
2. Tolu Arokodare, 19 – FC Koln
Arokodare plays for FC Koln on loan from Latvian side Valmiera. Born in Festac, Arokodare stands at 1.97m and is Nigeria’s tallest active striker behind only Paul Onuachu and Simeon Nwankwo. Unlike the aforementioned lanky strikers, Arokodare is well built and has a similar physique to Swedish legend, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, giving him a good better body balance and upper body strength.
Arokodare began his debut season in Europe with an impressive 9 goal contributions in 16 games a the age of 18. He exploded this season,2020/21, directly contributing to 17 goals in 16 games for Valmiera. He was also voted by fans as the best player for the month of July.
But along with this explosion came the distracting attention, and one of the interested clubs, Anderlecht, turned the head of the player.
Anderlecht submitted a bid of £1M for Arokodare which would have been a record for the Latvian league, but Valmiera rejected the bid. Arokodare got so upset with this that he went AWOL. Valmiera released an official statement, urging him to return to training but also subtly threatening to sanction and present the issue to FIFA. Arokodare eventually returned, admitting he was mentally devastated by the breakdown of the move.
2 months later, Arokodare got a move to an even better league, the German Bundesliga. Albeit being a loan, FC Koln have an option to make it permanent. Arokodare has made two late substitute appearances since his arrival.
Joshua Zirzkee, Karim Adeyemi & Noni Madueke
All three are eligible for Nigeria, but all were born abroad and have pledged allegiances to other countries.
1. Terem Moffi, 21 – Lorient
Terem Moffi is another gem that stemmed from the lowly Latvian league. Without the emergence of Moffi, there might have been no Arokodare. Why? Well Moffi made his breakthrough in 2019 after moving to Riteria of Latvia. He scored 14 goals in 24 games, which is okay, but relatively average, due to the low rating of the Latvian league.
He began the next season, in the best way possible, scoring 6 goals in 5 games and was snapped up in January by Belgian club Kv Kortrijk. He scored 4 goals in his first 7 games, which is very impressive in cognisance of the huge chasm in qualities of the Latvian and Belgian league. His fine run was unfortunately cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, as the Belgian league was stopped.
But this was enough and bigger clubs started circling. This also drew a huge awareness to the huge potentials in the Latvian league a good thing for Nigerian players.
(There are 21 Nigerian players in the Latvian league, all are 21 years of age or under, except 2).
Anderlecht, Brest and other clubs showed serious interests but Moffi began the new season, 2020/21, with Kortrijk, reiterating his loyalty to the club.
Moffi got his first goal of the 2020/21 season in his second game as they beat Champions League side Gent. After this Kortrijk stated that they would only accept a record fee for the player.
Moffi got injured after this and never featured for Kortrijk again. Few weeks later, Lorient eventually turned interest to action and showed gall by submitting offers of £5M and £7M which Kortrijk rejected. They accepted a third bid of £8M and included some lucrative add-ons in the deal including a 20% sell-on clause.
The £8M fee was so substantial that it is more than half of Kortrijk’s £14M annual budget. In addition, they made a profit of £7.85M because they bought Moffi for £150,000.
Although Moffi is yet to make an appearance for his new club due to injury, his manager has expressed high hopes and expectations from the forward.
Seeing the void left and felt in the Super Eagles team by the absence of Osimhen in the friendly defeat against Algeria and also the quality of the league. Moffi is the most likely of the players listed here to make it into the Super Eagles team.