It worries Nigerian football enthusiasts. That there has not been a Nigerian world-class player in a long time. The days when the likes of Kanu Nwankwo, Taribo West, Victor Ikpeba were mentioned among the elites are long gone.
If being a world-class player is considered to be too lofty, very few Nigerian players have been consistent on the biggest stages of club football. Former Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi and Victor Moses played prominent roles in their Chelsea days but that's just two in the last decade. Alex Iwobi made some important contributions to Arsenal, but that was during their decline and it was short-lived. He now plays at Everton.
This lack of genuine football superstars affected the Super Eagles which had lacked star attractions after the days of Kanu, and Austin Jay-Jay Okocha. The enthusiasm of Nigerians waned between 2010 and 2016 although it was briefly stoked by the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title win in 2013.
It has since gotten better, with more enthusiasm and followership for the Super Eagles of Nigeria stoked by the exploits of the new generation of players in Europe. With the wider and bigger coverage of European football, Nigerian players are now easily tracked anywhere they play in Europe. This wasn’t easy back in the days when Nigerians could only follow the Premier League and Champions League.
The buzz and sparks around the Super Eagles are back with the emergence of some talented youngsters, Samuel Chukwueze included.
Chukwueze burst into the scene last season in Villarreal where he made a series of fantastic performances. He scored nine goals in all competition and caught rave reviews following fine performances against the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
This season, he has scored twice and has just been recognised as one of the best U21 players in Europe by France Football organisers of Ballon d’Or.
The recognition follows the prospect of Chukwueze who judging by his skillset alone, has what it takes to be the player to bring ultimate stardust to the Super Eagles.
They are others like him. Wilfred Ndidi is the one player in the Super Eagles who is close to being a world-class player in his position, Iwobi remains a very popular name while Victor Osimhen’s rise has continued with Lille in France.
Samuel Chukwueze’s nomination is a big deal but this should just be the start for him and some of his contemporaries in the national team. Nigerian players need to start playing in the biggest stages again. like the top African stars like Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and Mohamed Salah.
The Super Eagles need one player of that status. It's the kind of progress and recognition the national team currently need to step to the next level both on the pitch and as a brand.