It’s often difficult for African players to start from the very top. From Samuel Eto’o to Yaya Toure, Sadio Mane to Mohammed Salah, the stories are similar. These players started from smaller clubs before working their way to the biggest sides in world football.
The same was predicted for Moses Simon who had every scouting report on him purring about his talent and potential. Even after a failed trial at Dutch giants Ajax, Simon was still consistently linked with clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham.
From AS Trencin in Slovakia, he worked his way up to Gent of Belgium where he played for three years before he got another move, a step up to La Liga with Levante in the summer of 2018.
After years of promise in the unfancied Slovakian league and the not so-respected Belgian league with Genk, Simon finally had his chance to play in one of Europe’s top five leagues with Levante.
But the Nigerian could not take on the challenge. He struggled with injuries when he first joined Levante and subsequently found it had to break into the starting XI. It was in February 2019, five months after joining the club that Simon managed his first start in a league game.
In further let-down, Simon, when given a chance to play, was limited with the role of a wing-back in Paco Lopez’s 3-4-1-2 formation. There were a few fine performances but after just one season in Spain, it was clear Simon had not made any progress in La Liga.
He joined Ligue 1 side Nantes on loan and it was in France that the Nigeria international reignited his career.
From the moment Simon joined Nantes, the Nigerian thrived in Christian Gourcuff’s favourite 4-4-2 formation. In this set-up, Simon had the freedom to play as an inverted forward and with the absence of a goalscorer, the Nigerian found space to score goals.
He became Gourcuff’s most trusted forward and when the manager needed more bodies in midfield, he moved the Nigerian up front to lead the line. In that role, Simon impressed again, scoring and causing lots of problems for the Paris Saint-Germain defence in a league game.
He ended up as Nantes’ top scorer with nine goals and eight assists in all competition and was named the club’s Player of the Season.
A huge part of what made Simon successful in France was how quick he adapted to Ligue 1 and the trust he got straightaway from Gourcuff. In addition, the level of competition in Ligue 1 was also less than that of La Liga which ranks number one in Europe according to UEFA's rankings.
He has now been given a four-year deal to continue at Nantes. “FC Nantes has exercised the purchase option from the Spanish Levante Unión Deportiva (La Liga) club for the definitive transfer of Moses Simon (24) to FC Nantes,” the club said in a statement.
With his contract settled for the four years, only Simon can truly speak on what his next motivation is. Will he get comfortable and try to remain at his level or have another go at a bigger challenge