Nigeria Power Rankings: Red-hot Osimhem returns to the summit
What a month November was. Lille’s Victor Osimhen returned to claim top spot, and the newly-committed Nigerian Cyriel Dessers shot to the dizzying heights of second in his first appearance on the list.
Such was the quality of play by Nigerians around the world that only four players made it back in from the October list. This were Osimhen, Wilfred Ndidi, Sadiq Umar and Moses Simon.
As if insulted by having had his top spot taken from him, striker Osimhen returned with a vengeance to wrench it back with a performance for both club and country that was absolutely breathtaking.
The youngster helped himself to three goals and two assists as the Super Eagles claimed six points out of six from their opening games of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
He did not stop there. After missing Lille’s post international game with suspension, he returned to pick up an assist and then a goal to take his tally for the month to five goals and three assists in seven games.
Making his debut here is Heracles’ Cyriel Desser, who is the leading scorer in the Dutch Eredivisie with 11 goals. The 24-year-old racked up six of those from four games in November alone, with three assists to boot.
He will definitely offer welcome competition to Osimhen in that leading striker role for the Super Eagles, given his recent declaration of commitment to Nigeria, despite being born and raised in Belgium.
Meanwhile, Wilfred Ndidi hit the milestone of a 100 Premier League appearances for Leicester City in November, and his performances — including one man of the match showing — have been nothing short of sensational, making him one of few players who have been almost ever-present in the rankings.
This month, he climbed five places from eighth to third.
Forward Sadiq Umar stayed in fourth place, but without Dessers’ entry, he would have been at least one place higher. The Partizan Belgrade striker is on 10 goals for the season, and four of those came in November.
Completing the top five is another debutant, and a surprising one at that. Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi had a barnstorming November that included monster saves and game-winning penalty stops.
Those displays earned him not only a recall to the Nigeria squad when it looked like his international career was dead as a dodo, but also player of the month honors in South Africa and a more than deserved entry into the Player Rankings.
Dropping down into the bottom five is Moses Simon, who was as high as second last time out. Any other month, and his man of the match award plus overall displays would have seen him much higher up the list.
Ola Aina follows in seventh. Solid defensive performances for both club and country, including three assists in the period under review earns him a place on the top 10.
Aina’s versatility has been a huge boon for Nigeria, with the ability to play on either fullback position without a loss of efficiency.
Against Benin, he played at right back and helped win the penalty kick that Osimhen tucked away for the goal. And at Lesotho, it was his driving run and bewitching skill that flummoxed the defenders before he laid the ball on a plate for Osimhen to score his first of two.
Another debutant is Mikel Agu, who has been so solid for Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes that he was named in the Team of the Week, a fine honor for a deep-lying midfielder.
Returning to the top 10, but way down the list after missing out last time is Samuel Chukwueze. The Villareal man scored during the qualifiers for Nigeria and was a constant threat for both club and country, as he continuously racked up valuable playing minutes.
Rounding up the list is Olympic team captain Azubuike Okechukwu. His presence was not enough to rescue the Olympic Eagles from crashing out of Tokyo 2020 contention, but his value to Yeni Malatyaspor has been high.
His strong showing in November just about edged out fellow Turkey-based pro Anthony Nwakaeme and Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo.
Nigeria Power Rankings: November 2019
1. Victor Osimhen (Lille, France)
2. Cyriel Dessers (Heracles, Netherlands)
3. Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester, England)
4. Sadiq Umar (Partizan, Serbia)
5. Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa)
6. Moses Simon (Nantes, France)
7. Ola Aina (Torino, Italy)
8. Mikel Agu (V. Guimaeres, Portugal)
9. Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal, Spain)
10. Azubuike Okechukwu (Malatyaspor, Turkey)