As the summer transfer window in Europe closed for the 2023/24 season on Friday, ABIODUN ADEWALE takes look at the successful moves as well as the ones that hit the wall for Nigerian players
Alex Iwobi (Everton – Fulham)
A move from Arsenal to Everton in 2019 was supposed to help Iwobi get quality playing time in the Premier League, but while the Nigerian midfielder proved to be key player for the Toffees, he can’t help the Merseyside club from struggling to avoid relegation in the last two seasons. This 2023/24 season has started in the same manner for Sean Dyche’s team and that is why a reunion with former coach, Marcos Silva at Fulham will save the Nigerian from any doom Everton find themselves eventually. Silva was instrumental as the Cottagers completed a £22m deal for the Nigerian before deadline day.
Victor Boniface (SG Union – Bayern Leverkusen)
Since overcoming the injury and depression which threatened his career when he first moved to Europe in 2019, Boniface has been on the ascendancy – moving from a €2m player to a €20m player in four years. The 22-year-old joined Leverkusen on a five-year deal worth €20m with an additional €7.5m allocated for add-ons and contractual clauses after just a year with Union SG in Belgium. It is the most expensive sale in the history of Union SG, dwarfing the €7m received from Club Brugge for Casper Nielsen last year. Boniface has been up and running in the Bundesliga with five goals already.
Samuel Chukwueze (Villareal – AC Milan)
After five years in Spain, Chukwueze switched things up with his move to Italian Serie A giants AC Milan. Milan completed the signing of Chukwueze from Villarreal on a five-year deal worth €28m including add-ons as the Nigerian became Stefano Pioli’ seventh summer acquisition. The 24-year-old who scored 13 goals and 11 assists in all competitions last season for the Yellow Submarine has been touted to form a dangerous two-flanked attack along with Rafael Leao for Milan while he also revealed his compatriot and Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen influenced his decision to join Milan.
Chukwueze has featured in all their three wins in the Serie A this season but he’s yet to start a game.
Nathan Tella (Southampton – Bayern Leverkusen)
Joining Boniface at Leverkusen is 24-year-old Tella, who was born in England to Nigerian parents. The Southampton forward joined Bundesliga side few days before the end of the transfer window in five-year deal reported to be for £20m. Tella starred for Burnley on loan last season, scoring 19 goals as the Clarets won the Championship title.
Chuba Akpom (Middlesbrough – Ajax)
From the Championship to the Eredivisie, Chuba Akpom has waited long enough for the eventual big move in Europe. The former Arsenal man penned a five-year-deal for an initial fee of €12.3m to join the Dutch giants and was handed the iconic No.10 jersey, which was previously worn by Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard, Aron Winter, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert, Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder. Akpom endured some tough loan spells before making some breakthrough in Greece with PAOK and finally Middlesbrough in the Championship last season when he scored 29 goals for Boro in all competitions to finish as the second tier’s top scorer and also won the league’s player of the season award as well as the PFA Player’s Player of the Year in the Championship.
Calvin Bassey (Ajax – Fulham)
A move from a Champions League side to a mid-table team in the Premier League should not be classified a big one, but for what Bassey has endured in the Holland, a move away from the Dutch giants to a decent club like Fulham is good for his career and confidence.
Fulham signed Bassey for £18m, one season after he joined Ajax from Rangers.
Cyril Dessers (Cremonese – Rangers)
Although for just £5m, Dessers’ move from relegated Italian side Cremonese means the Super Eagles striker has a chance to continue impressing in Europe. Dessers has not quite settled well at the Ibrox Stadium but he has the backing of his coach Michael Beale to succeed with the Scottish giants.
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Samuel Omorodion (Granada – Atletico Madrid)
After playing just one game for Granada against Atletico Madrid – and also scored in that game, Omorodion caught the eye of Diego Simeone and the former LaLiga champions were quick to pay €6m for a five-year deal. He has since been loaned to another LaLiga side Alaves, where the 19-year-old Nigerian says he is targeting scoring at least 10 goals in his debut LaLiga campaign.
Ola Aina (Torino – Fulham)
Defender, Aina returned to the Premier League on loan with Fulham with an option to buy in one of the deals that was completed before the heat of the transfer window. Aina who permanently signed for Torino last season could be established in the EPL again in his second stint at the Craven Cottage. The 23-year-old made 37 appearances for Torino last season and Aina’s loan at Craven Cottage could be made permanent for around £11m.
THE FAILED MOVES
Gift Orban (Gent)
Maybe not a failure but a move to Tottenham Hotspur could have been another game changer for Gift Orban who has taken Europe by storm since hitting the spotlight in January. Following the departure of Harry Kane to Bayern Munich, Spurs were in search of replacement for their captain, but despite selling the 30-year-old for €104, they couldn’t pay €30m for the Nigerian.
The Nigerian winger was a mid-season arrival for Gent in Belgium and he immediately announced his presence with 20 goals in 20 games last season. He has continued his impressive form this season, scoring two goals in three league games as well as four goals including a hat-trick in the Europa Conference League playoffs.
Iheanacho, Ndidi (Leicester City)
Just like their compatriots on the south coast, Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi could not secure moves away from Leicester City. Few days to the end of the summer transfer window, Ndidi emerged as a surprise option for German champions Bayern Munich who were willing to get him on loan, Premier League side Nottingham Forest also launched a bid for him while Liverpool also weighed his options in their search for a defensive midfielder.
For Iheanacho, he was the most touted to leave the King Power Stadium as soon as they relegated but despite being linked with Besiktas and Everton, Crystal Palace and Wolves, nothing was agreed.
Onuachu, Aribo (Southampton)
Following the relegation of Southampton to the Championship last season, Nigerian duo Joe Aribo and Paul Onuachu were expected to move away from the Saint Mary’s Stadium as both players were linked with different clubs. However, nothing materialised for both players in the summer transfer window and it seems they will continue to struggle for game time under coach Russel Martin in England’s second division just as it was for both of them in the Premier League.
Onuachu and his former club, Genk, could not compromise on a deal to see the striker return to Belgium while Aribo also didn’t move despite interest from Galatasaray and his former club Rangers.
Emmanuel Dennis (Forest)
Seemingly out of favour with coach Steve Cooper at Nottingham Forest, Dennis was unable to secure a move away from the Tricky Trees, having not played for them this season. He was linked with Serie A clubs, Atalanta and Udinese but no deal was sealed.
David Okereke (Cremonese)
One of the top scorers for Cremonese in the Serie A last season alongside Cyriel Dessers, former Olympic Eagles striker, David Okereke, is stuck with the relegated Italian club after failing to secure a move to Besiktas. The Turkish giants were interested in him as well as Kelechi Iheanacho but didn’t eventually sanction the deal.
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