Several Nigeria youngsters made giant strides in the round leather game in 2015.
A recent survey by CIES Football Observatory report revealed that Nigeria is the fifth largest exporter of footballers in the world and first in Africa.
The statistics could likely sky rocket with the continuous emergence of talented young lads from the country.
We highlight three most promising talents who showed glimpses of stardom this calendar year.
- Kelechi Iheanacho
No teen has shown more promise, dedication and progress in 2015 than the golden boy of the blue side of Manchester in England.
Kelechi Iheanacho, 19, formally signed for English giants, Manchester City, in 2014 after his super showing at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup which Nigeria won and where he emerged the overall best player.
He was promoted to City first team this season by head coach, Manuel Pellegrini, who was impressed by the lad in pre-season and immediately sanctioned the departure of two key strikers in Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic.
“This year he started pre-season with the squad and will be a very important player for the future,” hinted Pellegrini
“He’s one of the reasons I didn’t bring another striker in when we sold Edin Dzeko. He deserves that chance.”
Four goals in 13 games isn’t a bad return for a teenager in his debut season considering he’s been used sparsely.
And despite having a poor tournament at the FIFA U-20 World Cup early this year, the City no 72 wasn’t perturbed as he fought his way into becoming one of the regulars at the Etihad.
Also, he was nominated for the FIFA Golden Ball award; an award designed for the best young player in the world and got an invitation to the Super Eagles from coach Sunday Oliseh.
- Kelechi Nwakali
Kelechi Nwakali captained Nigeria to a record fifth FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, clinching the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player.
He joins an elite list of Nigerians to have picked up the accolade – others are Iheanacho, Phillip Osondu and Sani Emmanuel.
Kelechi, 17, the younger of the two Nwakalis was dropped from the Nigerian squad to the previous edition two years ago, while his elder brother, Chidiebere was a key member of the team.
Top Europeans teams are presently jostling for his signature after his charismatic display in midfield for Nigeria in Chile.
Described by Coach Emmanuel Amuneke as a “gift to Nigerian football”, the youngster has been nominated in the Young Player of the Year category in the 2015 CAF award.
- Victor Osimhen
Another nominee for CAF Young Player of the Year award, Victor Osimhen is probably the most sought after player in the world under the age of 17.
Osimhen notched 10 goals to surpass the record of most goals scored at an U-17 World cup – eclipsing nine each for both Sinama Pongolle and Ivorian Souleymane Coulibaly.
“I hope Victor (Osimhen) continues to grow and continues to make people happy,” Amuneke prayed.
“He’s a good player; he has to believe in himself. I am happy to see that he believes in his teammates, his coaches and we’re happy that he has progressed from when he joined us.”
As if that wasn’t enough, few weeks later, he helped the Dream Team VI qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro at the CAF U-23 AFCON in Senegal.