The Christmas and New Year season is celebrated across the world and footballers are not left out of the frame with a number of stars showing of their pajamas themed family photos behind Christmas trees.
While the year will be ending in four days, the Premier League, La Liga, Italian Serie A, French Ligue 1, German Bundesliga have just gone halfway through the 2021/22 season.
Nigeria is being represented across the top European leagues including the Russian league with the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Osimhen and Emmanuel Dennis becoming a menace to opposition teams in their respective leagues.
As the first half of the 2021/22 leagues across Europe comes to an end The PUNCH's Kelvin Ekerete takes a look at some of the country’s best performing players ahead of the 2022 African Cup of Nations holding in Cameroon.
Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin)
The Union Berlin striker has been one of the hottest strikers in Europe’s top five leagues this season. The 24-year-old has been in superb form since completing a permanent transfer to the German side from Liverpool in the summer.
Awoniyi has repaid the club’s faith in him by scoring nine goals and providing one assist in 15 Bundesliga games this season with his goals tally in Germany only bettered by that Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski, Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick, Dortmund’s Erling Haaland and Koln’s Anthony Modeste.
Asides from his goals in the Bundesliga, he scored two goals in six Conference League appearances, two goals in two Conference League qualifiers and a goal in two DFB-Pokal taking his total goals tally to 14 in 25 matches while providing three assists.
Victor Osimhen (Napoli)
Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen, started his season on a low, seeing red in his first Serie A match against Venezia. He was handed a three-match suspension but the Italian club won an appeal which reduced his ban to just one game. On returning from the suspension, the story of his 2021/22 season changed.
His impressive performance in his first game back gave his side a 2-1 win over Juventus and he had since scored nine goals in 14 appearances in all competitions before suffering a face fracture injury in his side’s 3-2 loss to Inter Milan.
His performance won him the Serie A’s player of the month for September, beating Inter’s Nicolo Barella, Milan’s Brahim Diaz and Fiorentina’s Giacomo Bonaventura to the award.
His absence has been felt by his club who have suffered two losses, one draw and recording one league win since his absence.
Emmanuel Dennis (Watford)
Since joining newly-promoted Premier League side Watford in the summer, Nigeria international, Emmanuel Dennis, has hit the ground running for the Hornets scoring seven goals and providing five assists in 15 league games making him one of the league’s impactful summer signings.
His performance has earned him Hornets Player of the Month for November. He has scored four goals in his last five appearances while providing two assists.
His performance has also seen him become one of the favourite players to feature for Nigeria at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon next year.
Cyriel Dessers (Feyenoord)
Cyriel Dessers left Belgian side Genk on loan to join Feyenoord in the Dutch Eredivisie due to lack of playing time but the striker is beginning to make a name for himself as a super-sub in the Netherlands.
Dessers’ impressive form for the Dutch side has seen him grab eight goals in 18 appearances in both the Europa League and the Eredivisie.
The striker, who has been capped once by Nigeria, is the club’s player of the month for November while his first goal against Slavia Prague was also voted the club’s best goal for the month.
David Okereke (Venezia)
David Okereke had a tough time in the Belgian league with champions Club Brugge after an €8m transfer for his services from Spezia in 2019, a situation that led to him joining newly-promoted Serie A side, Venezia on loan in the summer.
Although he’s scored a modest four league goals in 14 appearances before picking up a muscle injury that has ruled him out till 2022, the goals scored by the former Nigerian youth international has been crucial to the team’s survival fight.
H’s goal against Empoli, Roma and Bologna handed his team maximum points.
Joe Aribo (Rangers)
One of the finest players in the Scottish Premier League, Joe Aribo, has continued to flourish under new manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst after the departure of Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard who brought him to the club in 2019.
Despite rumours linking him to a move to the Premier League, Aribo has not been distracted as he continues to score goals.
The 25-year-old has scored six league goals for the Ger’s this season with four of them coming in the last five matches as he closes 2021 on a high note
Moses Simon (Nantes)
One of the players with the most assists in the French Ligue 1, Moses Simon has made six assists in the ongoing season with his ratio only bettered by that of PSG’s Kylian Mbappé (8) and Olympique Marseille’s Dimitri Payet (7).
Aside from the six assists, Simon has also scored a modest two goals in 17 league games for Nantes with his goal against Lens is being tipped by fans as one of the goals of the season.
Simon was voted Nantes Player of the Month for August and September due to his impressive showing in the earlier part of the season.
Stephen Odey (FC Randers)
After leaving Belgian side Genk on loan for the second time, no one predicted that he won’t be returning to the side but his impressive form has seen him snapped up by Danish side Randers FC after three months at the club.
Odey in the first half of the season has scored 11 goals 19 games across all competitions for Randers helping them to the fifth position in the league.
His contribution in the Conference League (two goals in four appearances), helped the side finish second on the Group D log behind AZ Alkmaar.
Anthony Nwakaeme (Trabzonspor)
Nwakaeme’s goal contribution this season has made him one of the top players in the Turkish Super Lig this season.
In 15 league games this season, the one capped Super Eagles forward has scored six goals, providing six assists. He also grabbed a goal in four Conference League qualifying games taking his goals tally this season to seven in 19 appearances.
Nwakaeme scored seven goals and assisted seven times in 35 appearances in all competitions the 2020/21 season and he could surpass his last season output when he returns from a four-week injury in 2022.
He is currently Trabzonspor’s third-highest goalscorer behind Andreas Cornelius (9) and Anastasios Bakasetas (7).
Victor Moses (Spartak Moscow)
Like fine wine, Victor Moses is thriving in Russia with Spartak Moscow. The former Nigeria international’s impressive performance for the Russian side in the Europa League saw them beat favourites Napoli and Leicester City to the top spot in Group C.
The former Chelsea man in six games in the Europa League scored one goal while providing six assists.
In the league, Moses has scored once in 15 appearances.