From near pariah status at Leicester for most of the season, Kelechi Iheanacho finally found his way back into the side in December, instantly exploded with goals and assists for the Foxes over a busy season of festive fixtures.
Those displays earned him a deserved first appearance of the season in the December rankings. But not satisfied with that, the former junior international stepped it up a notch in January, adding goals and an equal number of more assists despite Leicester’s fluctuating form in the Premier League and bad fortune in the Cup.
After his goal against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup, Brendan Rodgers waxed effusive in praise
“It was a great finish. He’s been so important for us. You see his confidence all the time whether he starts or comes into the game, and that’s the beauty of him now — he is making an impact in games,” said Rogers.
“His confidence has grown and grown and we believe in him and believe in his talent and this season he has really come to the fore.
“He works so hard every day. He’s either making a goal or scoring a goal now and he works so hard in his pressing game.
“He was a threat when he came on tonight and I’m delighted for him.”
Kele ended the month with two goals and two assists, less than a few others on our list, but more than the scores, it was his influence on games and general improvement that has seen him catch the attention.
The former Manchester City player has looked a man reborn, with his energy, his zeal, his willingness to put himself about and excellent movement off the ball. Even his previously iffy first touch has all but disappeared.
All of these is why he claims top spot in our January rankings.
And very well-deserved too!
Going down the list and for the first time in our rankings, we are adding the ladies to the list, and no prizes for guessing who comes in all the way up to number two.
Four-time African Player of the Year winner Asisat Oshoala, celebrated her latest crown by exploding for four goals early in the month as Barcelona Femini routed Tacon 6-0.
She added two more to finish the month on six goals, making a bold entry into the rankings.
Up behind Oshoala, we welcome back Anthony Nwakaeme. The Trabzonspor forward picked up a red card in his club’s Turkish Cup defeat of Denizlispor. Although the club appealed the sending off, the appeal proved unsuccessful.
But he had already contributed three goals and one assist for the month and that was enough to catapult him to number three on the list.
Newbie Paul Mukairu makes his debut at a very high fourth on the list, and it comes on the back of an excellent four weeks for Antalyaspor highlighted in part by two goals and two assists.
He has flitted in and out of the rankings, but Samuel Chukwueze continues to be one of few players who performs consistently, and he was on it again this month.
His assist to Santi Cazorla in Villareal’s 2-0 win at Rayo Vallecano was the ne of the posters for his performances. The Nigerian came on as a sub with the 15 minutes left and the game tied at 0-0 and proceeded to help his team turn things around. He was involved in the build up to the first goal and then set up Cazorla for the second with a beautiful jinky move to juke past one defender and then take out two others with his pass to the former Arsenal man.
But his goal against Girona is a highlight reel. The youngster picked up Cazorla’s pass from midfield, then proceeded to weave his way through four defenders before finding the bottom corner. And he almost repeated it a few minutes later but for a flying save.
Next up is a bit of a surprise. In terms of position, that is. Victor Osimhen dominated these rankings in 2019, hovering in the top three for most of the year.
He dropped to second in December and now — no thanks to injury — has dropped even further in January. All the way down outside of the top five to sixth. Rounding up the top 10 is Aris Saloniki’s Brown Ideye in seventh. Moses Simon continued his consistent form, proving to be an assists master. Junior Ajayi bounced in on his debut to get his 18th goal of the season and Ola Aina‘s superb run with Torino gets him in at 10th.
Nigeria Power Rankings: January 2020
1. Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester, England)
2. Asisat Oshoala (Barcelona, Spain)
3. Anthony Nwakaeme (Trabzonspor, Turkey)
4. Paul Mukairu (Antalyaspor, Turkey)
5. Samuel Chukwueze (Villareal, Spain)
6. Victor Osimhen (Lille, France)
7. Brown Ideye (Aris Saloniki, Greece)
8. Moses Simon (Nantes, France)
9. Junior Ajayi (Al Ahly, Egypt)
10. Ola Aina (Torino, Italy)