Nigerian Football Stars Shine Bright: Lookman & Boniface Eye CAF Player Of the Year

Date: 25-05-2024 2:01 pm (3 weeks ago) | Author: Mister Jay Wonder
- at 25-05-2024 02:01 PM (3 weeks ago)

Following Victor Osimhen's historic win at the 2023 African Player of the Year awards, ending Nigeria’s 24-year drought, the exceptional performances of Nigerian players in the 2023/24 season suggest that the nation could secure the prestigious title once again in 2024.

Two Nigerian footballers have particularly stood out this season: Ademola Lookman and Victor Boniface. Both players recently faced off in the UEFA Europa League final on June 22, held at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. Lookman’s performance was nothing short of spectacular, as he scored a hat trick that led Atalanta to their first-ever European title, ending a 61-year wait.

“I’ve always had confidence in my ability to create, to score goals, to help my teammates,” Lookman said during the post-match press conference. “In the past two years, I’ve been able to take my game to a whole new level. Maybe [my best form] could have come earlier, but it’s come now. This is just the beginning. I hope for more nights like this and to just keep getting better and better.”

The UEFA official website highlighted Lookman's feat, noting he is only the fifth player to achieve a hat trick in a Europa League final, joining legendary names like Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano, Pierino Prati, and Jupp Heynckes.

On the other side of the pitch were Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella, both of whom started on the substitutes' bench. Boniface, who joined Leverkusen in the summer of 2023 for approximately $22 million, quickly adapted to Xavi Alonso’s system. His impressive early-season performances included scoring two goals on matchday two and another brace and assist on matchday three, earning him consecutive Rookie of the Month awards for August, September, and October.

By the time Boniface left for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), he had tallied 10 goals and seven assists, propelling Leverkusen to the top of the Bundesliga standings. Despite his absence due to injury for about four months, Leverkusen thrived and secured their first-ever Bundesliga title.

Sports analyst Yemi Adesanya noted that while Boniface’s early contributions were crucial, Leverkusen’s success during his absence demonstrated the team's overall strength. “You have to take into account that Boniface was out for about four months, right? And in those four months, Leverkusen could still do what they could do. They even bought a replacement for him and found a way to play without a proper striker,” Adesanya explained.

Adesanya firmly believes that Lookman is the frontrunner for the CAF Player of the Year (POTY) award. “Lookman has been in three finals this year alone: Cup of Nations, Coppa Italia, and this Europa League final. You can’t write about Nigeria’s run to the AFCON final without him. And then, obviously, with that performance in the final. If POTY had been given before for one match and yeah, I am referencing [Nwankwo] Kanu’s performance against Chelsea in 2000, then it cannot be anyone else unless we want to be funny,” he added.

Remi Sulola, Head of the Sports Desk at The Cable, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing Lookman’s contributions to the Super Eagles. “Lookman deserves to win the CAF African Footballer of the Year Award, looking at his performance at the 2023 African Cup of Nations, where he netted three goals for the Super Eagles. He was also named among the best eleven after the competition,” Sulola noted.

While other players like Victor Osimhen and Mohamed Salah had relatively average seasons, Adesanya pointed out that Brahim Diaz of Real Madrid could be a dark horse if he delivers a standout performance in the Champions League final.

In conclusion, Ademola Lookman’s consistent high-level performances for both club and country make him a strong contender for the 2024 African Player of the Year award. However, the Confederation of African Football’s history of unpredictable decisions, sometimes swayed by single outstanding performances, leaves room for potential surprises in the final selection.

Posted: at 25-05-2024 02:01 PM (3 weeks ago) | Addicted Hero
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Posted: at 25-05-2024 03:43 PM (3 weeks ago) | Addicted Hero