April was a tough month for Nigerian players in Europe, especially the strikers, who found it difficult to score, scoring in mediocre spots rather than the flowing rivers in the previous months.
But when they scored, they changed the fortunes of their teams, especially in European competition.
Moussa Simon was the top pick, as the Nantes man continues to excel in Ligue 1 and finds himself worthy of his name on the shortlist for the Marc Vivien-Foe Award.
He was closely followed by the unknown Francis Izeh, whose five-goal mark in Turkey’s second tier was by far the most of any Nigerian striker this period.
1. Moussa Simon, Nantes / France
The credit for Simon’s quality and performance this season is that he was nominated for the Marc-Vivien Vaux Award in France. The award is given to the best player of African origin in Ligue 1 and the Nigerian was nothing if not one of the best.
In April, he went on to prove that his position on that shortlist was well deserved, helping himself with three goals and one assist as the yo-yo season continued at Nantes.
Against the Girondins Bordeaux, Simon was not particularly playable. With Bordeaux leading 2-1, Ricardo Mangas forced his own goal with a low cross, then climbed another cross by Califa Coulibaly to head the ball 3-3.
Then the Nigerian extended the difference to 4-3 with a silky finish inside the penalty area before Osman Bakari completed the result from behind with a 5-3 victory.
Simon has been one of Nigeria’s standout players all season, and April was once again owned by the 26-year-old.
2. Francis Eze, Tuzlaspur / TOR
On loan from Demirspor in the Turkish Super League, not many people would have heard of Francis Izeh, after only two goals and one assist in his previous eight matches. But the 24-year-old made sure that all of that would change when he blew up in April.
He scored in each of the four games he’s played in, including a 4-0 win over giants Genclerbirlig with a total of five goals in four matches. This number makes Eze the most Nigerian striker in Europe last month.
3. Cyril Desires, Feyenoord / Ned
Dessers proved to be the king of the UEFA Europa Conference League. The 27-year-old Nigerian striker has scored in seven of his last eight matches in the competition, dating back to the group stage in November.
Four of those goals, plus one assist, came in April as Desires helped Feyenoord get past Slavia Prague with a pass in the first leg of the quarter-finals and then scored twice in the second leg.
He added two more goals in the first leg of the semi-final against Olympique Marseille to score the top scorer in the Conference League with 10 goals, two goals behind Tami Abraham of Roma. And in his current hot streak, there should be possibilities to add to that number and help his team into the final.
4. Paul Onwacho, Jenk / Bill
It was a quiet month for the two-meter-tall striker, who scored 16 league goals for the season entering April, failing to score in the last two games in March.
But he seemed to put it all behind him with a solid start to April, hanging up a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over the Eupen Cup.
But that was it for the Nigerian, as he went through the next three games without a goal or assist. However, these three goals and three points proved crucial in keeping Genk in the playoffs for a place in UEFA competitions.
5. Taiwo Awoniyi, Union Berlin / GER
Aouni and Union Berlin ended March poorly, with two losses and one draw from three matches. They changed that in April, going five games unbeaten, including four straight wins. That series began with Awoniyi scoring the lone goal in a big win over FC Cologne to open the month.
He may have finished with just two goals from five matches in April, but those goals proved important not only to his two wins, but also ensured a personal milestone for the Nigerian striker.
They raised his tally to 17 Bundesliga goals for Union Berlin, surpassing Max Cruz as the top scorer in the Bundesliga.
6. Samuel Choques, Villareal / ESP
Sometimes it only takes one, and Chukwueze’s “one” was about as big as it gets.
The Nigerian winger came as a late substitute in the second leg of Villarreal’s UEFA Champions League match against Bayern Munich, with the German team leading 1-0 and the goal aggregate tied 1-1.
Samo crept into the back corner in a stinging counterattack to catch the sweeping ball of Gerard Moreno and raise the net to 1-1. That goal proved enough to send Villarreal to the Champions League semi-finals.
7. Odion Ighalo, Al Hilal / Saudi Arabia
Ighalo makes this scoring lark look easy. At least in the Gulf.
After the veteran Nigerian striker smashed 19 goals in 24 league matches, he turned his shooting attention to the Kings Cup and the AFC Champions League.
Ighalo scored two goals in four matches in the Champions League, where his club achieved two wins and one draw of the four for which he was chosen, and he lost only once.
8. Zaidu Sanusi, FC Porto / POR
Leaders Porto suffered their first league defeat of the season in April. But it was the only smudge on this month’s five game notebook as they continue their tumultuous campaign, winning the other four games.
They achieved a 15-3 goal difference, including three consecutive clean sheets, and Nigerian left-back Sanusi was a key part of that, starting every one of those matches.
Zedo even had time to go ahead to impress with a goal against him in the 3-0 win over his former club Sporting Braga.
9. Chidira Ijok, CSKA / Ross
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Ejuke in these rankings, but the CSKA striker has only lost by good margins. This time, he made his way.
Ejuke was brutal against rivals Dinamo Moscow, scoring the winning goal as CSKA beat the team above them at the table.
But it was more than a goal. The Nigerian tormented the Dynamo constantly, his speed and trickery waning like little bombs all over the park, they were even relieved when he scored. It was no surprise when he walked away with the Man of the Match award.
10. Aaron Olanari, BB Erzurumspor / TUR
Aaron Samuel may be one of the forgotten men in the Super Eagles, but the former international striker is still chopping trees in Europe, even if it’s in the Turkish second division.
Samuel opened the month of April with a hat-trick in a 5-1 win over Balikerspor, followed by an assist in the next league game, before finding the net again to take his tally for the month to four goals and one assist. Month, eight goals and three assists for the season.
The 27-year-old is unlikely to wear the green and white shirt anytime soon, but if he continues at this level and the club achieves the promotion, anything is possible.