Osimhen, Lookman lead Nigeria’s best XI for 2023/2024 season

Osimhen, Lookman lead Nigeria's XI for 2023/2024 season

Osimhen, Lookman lead Nigeria’s best XI for 2023/2024 season

Joba Ogunwale 13:50 - 31.05.2024

Osimhen and Lookman are the two biggest names in Nigeria’s best eleven of the 2023/2024 football season. 

The 2023/2024 football season is over, although there is the little matter of the UEFA Champions League final on June 1st. 

Nonetheless, the domestic leagues, especially in Europe, have all concluded their season, with most of the players now on vacation ahead of the international window in June. 

There were some outstanding players who stood out above their peers. Nigerian players were not left out of this conversation, too. 

As a result, we have decided to create the best Nigerian XI for the 2023/2024 football season. Given the season was also an AFCON year, we have selected these players based on their club and national team performances. 

Goalkeeper: Stanley Nwabali (Chippa United)

It is fair to say that Nwabali was the revelation of this season. Before the turn of the year, he was unknown to many Nigerians, even though he had been playing for South African club Chippa United. 

Nwabali, however, announced himself on the big stage at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations as he played a key role in Nigeria’s run to the final. 

Super Eagles goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali
Stanley Nwabali announced himself on the big stage at AFCON 2023 |Photo Credit: Imago

Before the tournament, the 27-year-old had only played once for the Super Eagles but was given the nod by head coach Jose Peseiro. 

It was an opportunity Nwabali took well as he was unaffected by the big occasion. The former Katsina goalkeeper conceded just four goals, keeping our clean sheets to help Nigeria reach the final. 

Following the AFCON, Nwabali’s stock continued to rise. At club level, he made 26 appearances for Chippa United, keeping 11 clean sheets. 

Centre-Back: William Troost-Ekong (PAOK)

In fairness, William Troost-Ekong did not have the best season at club level, making just 22 appearances in all competitions for PAOK in Greece. 

But while he had his shortcomings at club level, he made up for it with a solid performance with the Super Eagles at the 2023 AFCON. 

Super Eagles stand-in captain William Troost Ekong (Photo Credit: Imago)
Super Eagles Vice-captain William Troost Ekong was a rock at AFCON 2023 (Photo Credit: Imago) Super Eagles stand-in captain William Troost Ekong (Photo Credit: Imago)

Without Ekong’s leadership at the back, the Super Eagles would not have reached the final of Africa’s biggest event. 

His leadership was clear to see in defence while he also contributed offensively with three important goals, including one in the final. 

He was deservedly named the best player of the tournament, highlighting his impact on the team. 

Centre-Back: Calvin Bassey (Fulham)

Calvin Bassey was another player who played a key role at the back in Nigeria’s AFCON campaign. The Fulham star played in all games in a three-man defence.

Like Ekong, Bassey was a key player both at the back and in attack, especially on the left side of the defence. 

He was also great at club level, playing 32 times for Fulham, including 29 in the Premier League. Bassey was indeed one of Fulham’s best players this season despite only joining the club last summer from Ajax. 

Calvin Bassey had a great year for the Super Eagles and Fulham |Photo Credit: Imago

Right-Back: Sodiq Ismail (Remo Stars)

As of the time of writing this, Sodiq Ismail is the only player with no Super Eagles cap but he has been called up for the 2026 World Cup qualifier against South Africa and The Republic of Benin. 

His call-up is a reward for his performances for Remo Stars in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL). 

Before his call-up, Ismail had been quietly making waves with the NPFL side, leaving fans, pundits and coaches alike wondering why he had not donned the prestigious Super Eagles shirt. 

Sodiq Ismail and Dani Alves.
Sodiq Ismail has been likened to Dani Alves. (Photo Credit: Pulse Sports collage)

Ismail’s ability to create chances and assist others as an emerging attacking full-back has sparked comparisons with one of the game’s greatest full-backs, Dani Alves. 

He celebrated his maiden Super Eagles call-up with another eye-catching assist, his 13th of the season, more than any player in the league. 

Left-Back: Ola Aina (Nottingham Forest)

Ola Aina has another solid year, playing a major role for the Super Eagles at the AFCON. The Nottingham Forest was adept at both right-back and left-back for the team in the competition, playing all seven games.

Ola Aina in Naija's colours
Ola Aina had another solid year for Nigeria and Nottingham Forest || Imago

 Aina also played a key role for Forest in their escape from relegation, playing 22 times with one goal and one assist.

Midfielder: Raphael Onyedika (Club Brugge)

Onyedika may not have played as much as he would have liked at the AFCON, but he was immense at club level. 

The 23-year-old was one of Club Brugge’s best players this season, making 49 appearances in all competitions and helping them win the Belgian League. 

Raphael Onyedika in Club Brugge's colours
Raphael Onyedika did not play as much as he would've liked at AFCON but he had a great year at Club Brugge || Image credit: Imago

Onyedika played a massive role in Brugge’s league triumph, with 21 appearances in the regular season and another nine in the playoffs. 

He came up clutch in the playoffs with three goals to cap off an amazing season.

Midfielder: Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)

Wilfred Ndidi missed the Super Eagles AFCON campaign due to injury, but he had one of his best campaigns with Leicester City. 

Ndidi in Leicester City's colours
Ndidi did not play at AFCON but had a good year with Leicester City || Imago

The Nigeria international missed about three months of the season but still played a massive role for the Foxes as they secured an immediate return to the Premier League. 

Ndidi made 32 league appearances for the Foxes, scoring four goals and providing another five for his teammates. 

Midfielder: Alex Iwobi (Fulham)

Alex Iwobi was also part of the Nigerian team that went to AFCON. While his performance divided opinions, he still put in an incredible shift as he was played out of position in a two-man midfield. 

Iwobi at AFCON 2023
Alex Iwobi played a vital role for Nigeria and Fulham this season || Imago

Also, he had a stellar year at club level with Fulham, scoring five goals and setting up another two in 32 Premier League games for the Cottagers. 

Left-Forward: Victor Boniface (Bayer Leverkusen)

Boniface had one of the best years ever by a Nigerian player despite suffering a three-month injury. 

In fact, if not for injury, he would have been the undisputed Nigerian player of the season. The 23-year-old pulled out of Nigeria’s squad for AFCON but had a great year to be included. 

Boniface had an unprecedented year with Bayer Leverkusen
Victor Boniface celebrates the historic Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen.

Boniface had an unprecedented season with Bayer Leverkusen, who won the Bundesliga title for the first time in their history as unbeaten champions under the guidance of Xabi Alonso. 

The Nigeria international played a massive role in the feat, scoring 14 goals and setting up another nine in 23 league games. 

His great season did not end there as he also won the DFB Pokal Cup, scoring two goals in three games. 

Although Leverkusen failed to win the treble after losing the Europa League final, Boniface had a great run in the competition with five goals and one assist in eight games. 

Right-Forward: Ademola Lookman (Atalanta)

Lookman had the best season of his career at club and international levels this year, despite only making his debut for Nigeria last year. 

Lookman was arguably Nigeria's best player this season
Atalanta hero Ademola Lookman lifted high by his teammates. | Credit: IMAGO

The former Everton man was one of Nigeria’s best players at the AFCON, coming up with clutch goals to help the Super Eagles to a second-place finish. 

Lookman scored a brace against Cameroon in the round of 16 before scoring the winner against Angola in the quarter-final. 

His performances earned him a place in the team of the tournament. At club level, Ademola Lookman had arguably his best year yet. 

The 26-year-old scored 16 goals and set up another nine in 44 matches for Atalanta. However, it was his performance in the Europa League final against Boniface’s Bayer Leverkusen that got the world talking. 

Lookman single-handedly won the trophy for La Dea with a stunning hat-trick in the final, the first African to score in a major European final. 

Striker: Victor Osimhen (Napoli)

Osimhen may not have reached the heights of last season but he still had a decent season. The Napoli man was also part of Nigeria’s squad for the AFCON, scoring one goal. 

While it may look disappointing on paper, the Super Eagles would not have gotten to the final without the work rate of Osimhen. 

Osimhen failed to hit the heights of last season with Napoli
Victor Osimhen did not reach the heights of last year but still had a fantastic year. || Imago

The Napoli man won two penalties for Nigeria and set up an assist for Lookman in the win against Cameroon, where he was the best player. 

At club level, Osimhen and Napoli had a disappointing year as they finished ninth in Serie A after winning the league title last year. 

However, Osimhen still pulled up decent numbers with 17 goals and four assists in 32 games, including 15 goals in the league.