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Ndidi, Chukwueze, Osimhen leading renaissance of Nigerian football, says Lawal

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Garba Lawal was a member of the era tagged the ‘Golden Age of Nigerian Football.’ The era, which began in 1990 and ended in 2000, gave Nigeria one Olympic gold medal and its second African Cup of Nations title apart from leading the country to the ranking as the fifth best team in the world. That is the highest any African country has achieved in international football.

Since that era, the country has been searching for ways to return to the top of international football despite its reputation as a breeding ground for talented footballers.

But the wait looks to be coming to an end, according to Lawal.

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Lawal points at the emergence in European football of such players as Samuel Chukwueze of Villarreal, Leicester of England’s Wilfred Ndidi and Victor Osimhen, who recently joined Italy’s Napoli, as proof that Nigeria is on its way back to the top.

Speaking to The Guardian yesterday, Lawal believes that Ndidi has been fantastic for his club in England, adding that Chukwueze needs to improve on his game to move on to top clubs in Europe.

“Chukwueze did well in the season that is rounding up in Europe, but I think he has to be more direct in his games to draw other clubs to his side.

“To me, sometimes his game looks childish unlike his former teammate, Cameroun’s Karl Toko Ekambi, who initially joined Olympique Lyon on loan from Villarreal and was later signed on a permanently basis. Ekambi’s game is more direct at goals unlike Chukwueze, which he needs to work on.

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“In football, you never can tell what happens next. It is all about one’s ability and I believe he too is on the right direction if he changes his game. I also think he is going to be a fantastic player in the immediate future. But continuity is very important for his development if he is to achieve that,” he said, adding that consistency made Osimhen what he is today.

“Osimhen’s move to Serie A is a good one for him because Napoli is not a small club. He is joining a club that has players like Arkadiusz Milik and Lorenzo Insigne… these are big players. Napoli is a new challenge and it is a bigger club and there is massive pressure on Napoli to excel, the reason they spent that much to acquire Oshimhen.

“As for Ndidi, he has always been a reliable and fantastic player for the country and even at his club. You can’t take away the quality he has both at club and for country. I think a lot of our Nigerian players also did well in Europe, by playing week in and week out for their respective clubs,” he stated.

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