AllNigeriaSoccer Special: Nigeria's Top 20 Stars Of 2011 - 2012 Season
Published: July 30, 2012
AllNigeriaSoccer Special: Nigeria's Top 20 Stars Of 2011 - 2012 SeasonAs the new football soccer revs for the big kick-off in the 2012/2013 season, while action is already on in Russia, China and some other ‘smaller leagues across the world, as well as the preliminary rounds of the continental club competitions, takes a look at the exertions of Nigerian players in the past campaign across Europe and deliver our verdict on the top 20 players that brought glory to themselves, their families, friends and the nation all through 2011/2012.

A surprise winter move to Schalke 04 of Germany by Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi (Edu) shot the versatile attacker-cum-winger into the top ten the ranking of Nigerian players, even as stars of the new generation and several from the Nigeria Premier League are now making inroads into the Super Eagles’ mainstream.

Despite a long chain of injuries, which saw the former Lyn Oslo of Norway player drop down the pecking order for club and country, especially after below par outings with the Eagles at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup, Obasi is now highly rated on recent scales.

This special survey by puts Obasi at number nine on the Nigerian top 20, which is led by inform former Blackburn Rovers of England striker, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, with West Bromwich Albion’s Peter Osaze Odemwingie in second place, and John Mikel Obi placed 4th, while Vincent Enyeama of Lille Metropole, France is the only goalkeeper on the log and stands tall at number 11.

Other highlights of this special survey include CSKA Moscow of Russia’s Ahmed Musa at 6th on the roll call, but there is no room the top 10 for fellow-Russia-based attacker, Obafemi Akinwunmi Martins (The Weapon of Mass Destruction), as well as Victor Obinna Nsofor (For Real) and Brown Aide Ideye, but John Chukwudi Utaka (The Attacker) is making a spirited return to relevance at number 8.

Among the ‘missing eleven’ is Nwankwo Kanu, but if old age could be the explanation for his absence, same cannot be said for ten other ex-Eagles invitees - Ebenezer Oluwafemi Ajilore, Victor Anichebe, Dele Adeleye, Dickson Etuhu, Peter Utaka, Kazem Ayila, Emmanuel Emenike, Joseph Akpala, Efe Ambrose and Sani Kaita - who are apparently facing diminishing returns because of their inabilities to take their game to the next level.

Aside the ‘unrated eleven’, another cadre of the unlisted players are the current ‘underachievers’ of Nigerian football - Michael Eneramo, Rabiu Ibrahim, Fengor Ogude, Sunday Stephen, Michael Odibe and Rabiu Ibrahim – who have failed to make their mark for club and country, despite wide acclaim that heralded their advent on the scene.

The full list of top 20 from bottom to top reads as follows:

20. LUKMAN HARUNA stands among Nigeria’s current top 20 as the only member of the victorious Golden Eaglets squad of Korea 2007 remaining relevant to date and, although he has faced a dip in rating since his ‘mysterious’ transfer from AS Monaco of France to Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine, the former under-17 national team skipper is still a symbol of youth development in Nigeria’s senior squad – having also played for the Flying Eagles, Olympic Eagles and Super Eagles. Haruna, however, missed out on a chance of adding to his feathers with an outing at the Olympics, as the under-23 squad failed to qualify for London 2012.

19. NOSA IGIEBOR may be the biggest ‘outsider’ in the ANS top 20 Nigerian soccer stars of the past season, especially as he is yet to become entrenched fully in the senior national team. However, a handful of breathtaking displays and goals for the immediate past under-23 national team revealed that the former Sharks of Port Harcourt, Warri Wolves and ex-Lillestrom of Norway attacking midfielder has a lot to offer, especially as he continues rising up the scales of club football at Hapoel Tel Aviv of Israel and was recently abuzz in the transfer market with interest from Real Betis of Spain.

18. APAM ONYEKACHI is one player whom injury has not been fair to; especially after halting his giant strides at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola and then knocked him out of a place with the Eagles at the 2010 Mundial in Nelson Mandela’s country, South Africa. The nagging injury also put on hold Apam’s days at Stade Rennes of France, to the extent that he had to wait over a year before getting his competitive debut, after arriving from OGC Nice. However, all that appears to be over and in the past, as the former Rangers International of Enugu central defender roared back into action at Rennes and zealously waiting to excel.

17. OBAFEMI MARTINS (Weapon of Mass Destruction) could be rated as one of Nigeria’s biggest disappointments of the moment, sequel to a series of otherwise ‘rash’ transfers that took him from Inter Milan of Italy to Newcastle United of England, VfL Wolfsburg of Germany and Rubin Kazan of Russia in quick succession, plus a quickfire loan spell at Birmingham City of England. Despite spirited efforts by Obagol, the once feared fleet-footed petit attacker has fallen deep into the penumbra of relevance for the Super Eagles and needs something extra to get back into the heart of Stephen Keshi and the ever-critical Nigerian football fan.

16. ELDERSON ECHIEJELE was recently in the news with possibilities of a January transfer from Sporting Braga of Portugal to a more prestigious club in central Europe but, as the deal eventually fell through, the product of Insurance FC of Benin City again had to face up to the reality that he needs to step up his game to a higher level, especially in the face of growing scorn that the only reason why he keeps getting invited to the Eagles is because he is a natural left-footer – which is hard to come by in recent years. The former Stade Rennes of France star will now just have to prove that he is worth more than his current rating and put all doubting-Thomases to shame.

15. NNAMDI ODUAMADI (Robinho) is another well-celebrated jewel from the ill-fated under-23 national squad of 2011, but one who was also able to show his potentials for the future during a handful of matches with Augustine Eguavoen’s side, especially against Liberia in Benin City. Although ‘Robinho’ eventually went on loan from AC Milan of Italy to Serie B side, Torino, a lot of pointers are still attesting to the fact that the frail-looking skilful winger-cum-attacker, who never played league club football in Nigeria before traveling abroad and was even dropped at the last minute by Coach Yemi Tella from the Golden Eaglets in 2007, is a indeed a promising gem for the future of Nigerian football.

will have to pray hard and work more if he is to overcome the tag of ‘always falling short’, which has left him wobbling on the fringes of glory as the current ‘nearlyman’ of Nigerian football. So it has been for ‘The Rave of The Moment’, as sterling displays for Inter Milan of Italy, Malaga of Spain, Chievo Verona of Italy and West Ham United of England were not enough to shoot him into the top echelon of Nigeria’s richest soccer stars, while a ‘shock’ move to Lokomotiv Moscow of Russia somehow poured cold water on efforts for a massive breakthrough by the barging winger-cum-attacker, who is still hunting for his time in the sun, despite scoring many crucial goals for the Flying Eagles, Olympic Eagles and Super Eagles.

13. JOEL CHUKWUMA OBI is still battling to become highly rated and relevant at Inter Milan of Italy, despite some battling efforts and sterling form during a handful of appearances for The Nerazzurri in the Serie A and UEFA Champions League. For the soft-spoken ever-busy midfielder, whose also had to battle injury towards the end of last season, the biggest task for 2012/2013 is to show that he is capable of doing more than has already been seen of him and to get a golden chance of proving to The Nerazzurri faithful that he could be the next midfield enforcer to bring glory and honour to the blue side of The San Siro.

12. BROWN AIDE IDEYE stands among the class of ‘underrated’ Nigerian stars, who keep oscillating in and out of high ratings in the eye of soccer fans from Africa’s most populous nation, despite heroic efforts at one point or the other. So it has been for the former Ocean Boys of Brass hitman since his days in the Flying Eagles, when he hit Nigeria’s first goal at the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, but went to sleep right after (despite immediately promising to be the competition’s highest goals scorer). Dramatically, Ideye’s top form at club level – from Neuchatal Xamax of Switzerland to Sochaux of France and now Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine has not reflected on his outings with the Super Eagles – which means he has to put in a lot this season, in order to show that he is really worth his salt and a lot more.

11. VINCENT ENYEAMA is the only goalkeeper in the ANS top 20 rating of Nigeria’s soccer stars of the past season, and the first player after the first ten on the roll call. Enyeama is to be found just after the top-ten-bracket, despite a lot of troubles he went through at club level, as his celebrated move from Hapoel Tel Aviv of Israel to Lille Metropole of France became more of a challenge than he would have thought. Nonetheless, the fact that this product of Enyimba of Aba remains vastly relevant to the Eagles, and his absence was direly felt in the crucial October 8, 2011 Nations Cup qualifier against Guinea, authenticate the verdict that Nigeria’s alternate skipper deserves to be rated among the best from Nigeria.

Sam O' Femi Fasetire

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