Nigerian Victor Osimhen was named African Player of the Year in Ligue 1

At the end of an exercise truncated by the health crisis linked to Covid-19, the performances of Little Victor Osimhen left no room for excitement. The Nigerian striker won the 2020 edition of the Marc-Vivien Foé Prize, awarded the best African player in this season’s Ligue 1.

Six years ago the Marc-Vivien Foé award had no longer reached Nigeria. Just like 2014, when Lille’s Vincent Enyeama was crowned, it is to another Super Eagle from the Northern Club that the trophy reserved for the season’s best African player in Ligue 1 will soon be awarded.

At the end of a truly successful season, despite the break due to Covid-19 (13 goals, 4 assists), Losc forward Victor Osimhen left no room for doubt. As a 21-year-old, he won his very first individual distinction quite wide (284pts), ahead of Algeria from AS Monaco Islam Slimani (95pts) and Morocco from Stade de Reims Yunis Albelhamid (89 points).

Other Nigerian who is crowned African Player of the Year in L1, he is also the sixth player from Lille to receive this trophy, which confirms a little more expertise in the Northern Club when it comes to recruiting African gems. Because if it was in Belgium, a little further north, that Lille went to find his nugget, the first lines of the incredible story Victor Osimhen are written much further south.

Benjamin to a sibling of seven children, it is at the foot of Olusosun, the huge Lagos dump, that the future Losc attacker grew up. As a child, he accompanied his mother in the endless traffic tests to sell a few bags of water and get something to eat.

From the madness of Lagos to the crowning of the world

An already difficult daily life that becomes even more complicated, a few years later, on his mother’s death. During the process, his father was robbed of his job. Through the player’s own entry, the family has no choice and must “stick together” to get out of it. Andrew, his big brother, who is also interested in football, draws a line on his career dreams of selling newspapers. But Victor keeps this goal behind him, even though he spends most of his time working.

A few years later, its history took a decisive turn. Like thousands of young people at the time, the teenager is put to the test while Nigeria plans to fill the numbers with their national selection of youths. Emmanuel Amunike, Nigerian football legend and coach of the Super Eagles under 17, is convinced by the young man’s talent and decides to take him to compete in the African Cup of Nations for his age group.

CAN-2015 U17 (U17), a fundamental event for Victor Osimhen, as he did four times there and finished top scorer in the competition. Logically, he continues the adventure with Amunike and competes in the U17 World Cup. Ten goals later – a record – Osimhen lifts young Nigerians to the top of the world. And the child is paying attention to the four corners of Europe.

Germany at the foot of the wall, since the Belgian outbreak

It was finally Wolfsburg who hit the jackpot by signing a resident at Ultimate Strikers Academy, in early 2017, after drawing up a pre-contract in 2016. In theory, at least, then the problems raise for the young recruit. Taught by injuries and a complicated adjustment in Germany, he fails to force himself, or even get a significant playing time (barely fifteen ends of matches).

And in the summer of 2018, when he temporarily returned to the country to meet his family, he suffered malaria before returning to Germany. No preparation at the beginning of the season for the young nugget, forced to observe a medical quarantine in Wolfsburg.

For German leaders, the failure no longer seems to be in doubt. Osimhen, who is offered on loan to several Belgian clubs, therefore landed in Charleroi, lacking confidence and lack of form. The operation is a risky operation. But in just three weeks, the player is finally able to reverse the trend. From the first games of the Jupiler League jumps the obvious: the Belgian club smelled good luck.

Osimhen quickly recovers most of his physical condition and from September he wins in the 11-holder to never leave him. His record makes him one of the most prominent artists in his championship, with 19 goals scored in the 2018/19 season.

It is not surprising that the call option that Charleroi negotiated when the player was borrowed was exercised the following summer. The Belgian club pays the EUR 3.5 million requested by Wolfsburg and then sells the player in Lille, in exchange for a check of EUR 15 million.

Little and previous Pépé

On the Losc side, the goal is simple: find a replacement for Nicolas Pépé – Prix Marc-Vivien Foé 2019 – whose 22 goals in the 2018/19 season allowed the club to seek 2nd place in Ligue 1 At the venue everywhere in Europe, the Ivorian leaves since the north France without surprise, heading to Arsenal and for an amount of about € 80 million.

The good economic blow is undeniable, but the loss of sports promises to be difficult to compensate. And yet … From his first match, against FC Nantes, Osimhen signed a double for the opening of Ligue 1. Then against Saint-Etienne, two days later, the same prize. The start is lightning, and the balance sheet at the end of the season, even curtailed by the health crisis linked to Covid-19, confirms the trend (13 goals and 4 assists in 27 games).

Convincing on the lawn, the player is also unanimous outside. In an interview with La Voix du Nord, the former doctor in Losc Patrick Flamant, for example, elicits a boy “very determined” and “always in the nails”. “It feels like nothing but football is next door,” he said. This passion seems to have captured the Lille supporters, who named him “Mastiff of the Season” on June 2. A “sweetheart” of the public who, even in mourning for his father’s death a few days earlier, has not since been able to confirm his love for the club.

From there to be able to confirm that Osimhen could be a candidate for his own legacy next season? Not so sure, because the offers are being raised at the Lille leaders’ desk. Naples, Liverpool and other big names in European football seem willing to break their piggy bank – between 40 and 80 million euros – to afford Nigerian services. By the very assumption of the president of Losc, the “wide range” of candidates would come from “three different championships”. And no doubt that Lille, like last year with Nicolas Pépé, will have a hard time refusing such a big deal.

• The complete classification of the Prix Marc-Vivien Foé 2020:

1 – Victor Osimhen (Nigeria – Small OSC) ► 284 points

2 – Islam Slimani (Algeria – AS Monaco) ► 95 points

3 – Yunis Abdelhamid (Morocco – Stade de Reims) ► 89 points

4 – Habib Diallo (Senegal – FC Metz) ► 52 points

5 – Mbaye Niang (Senegal – Stade Rennais) ► 43 points

6 ex-aquo – Hamari Traoré (Mali – Stade Rennais) ► 37 points

and Idrissa Gueye (Senegal – Paris SG) ► 37 points

8 – Denis Bouanga (Gabon – AS Saint-Etienne) ► 27 pts

9 – Edouard Mendy (Senegal – Stade Rennais) ► 24 pts

10 – Andy Delort (Algeria – Montpellier HSC) ► 13 points

11 – Moses Simon (Nigeria – FC Nantes) ► 10 points