Marc-Vivien Foé Prize 2020: Nigerian Victor Osimhen voted African player of the year in Ligue 1

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At the end of an exercise truncated by the health crisis linked to the Covid-19, the performances of Lille Victor Osimhen left no room for suspense. The Nigerian striker won the 2020 edition of the Marc-Vivien Foé Prize, awarded to the best African player in Ligue 1 of the season.

Six years since the Marc-Vivien Foé Prize had no longer reached Nigeria. As in 2014, when the Lille native Vincent Enyeama was crowned, it is to another Super Eagle of the northern club that the trophy reserved for the best African player of the season in Ligue 1 will soon be awarded.

At the end of a frankly successful season, despite the interruption due to the Covid-19 (13 goals, 4 assists), Losc forward Victor Osimhen left no room for doubt. At 21, he won his very first individual distinction fairly widely (284 pts), ahead of the Algerian from AS Monaco Islam Slimani (95 pts) and the Moroccan from Stade de Reims Yunis Albelhamid (89 pts).

Second Nigerian to be crowned African player of the year in L1, he is also the sixth player from Lille to obtain this trophy, confirming a little more the expertise of the northern club in terms of recruiting African pearls. Because if it was in Belgium, a little further north, that Lille went to find its nugget, the first lines of the tumultuous history of Victor Osimhen are written much further south.

Benjamin of a sibling of seven children, it is at the foot of Olusosun, the huge Lagos dump, that the future Losc attacker grew up. As a kid, he accompanies his mother amidst the endless traffic jams to sell a few sachets of water and get enough to eat.

From the galley in Lagos to the coronation of the world

An already difficult daily life that gets even more complicated, a few years later, on the death of his mother. In the process, his father was deprived of his job. By the player's own admission, the family has no choice and must “stick together” to get out of it. Andrew, his big brother, also interested in football, draws a line on his career dreams to go sell newspapers. But Victor keeps this goal in the back of his mind, even if he spends most of his time working.

A few years later, its history took a crucial turn. Like thousands of young people at the time, the teenager is put to the test while Nigeria prospects in order to fill the numbers with its national selections of young people. Emmanuel Amunike, Nigerian football legend and under-17 coach of the Super Eagles, lets himself be convinced by the young man's talent and decides to take him to compete in the African Cup of Nations for his age category.

The CAN-2015 U17 (U17), founding event for Victor Osimhen, since he scored there four times and finished top scorer in the competition. Logically, he continues the adventure with Amunike and competes in the U17 World Cup. Ten goals later - a record - Osimhen hoists young Nigerians on top of the world. And the prodigy draws attention to the four corners of Europe.

Germany at the foot of the wall, then the Belgian breakaway

It was finally Wolfsburg who hit the jackpot by signing the resident of the Ultimate Strikers Academy, at the beginning of 2017, after having established a pre-contract in 2016. In theory at least, since the troubles pile up for the young recruit. Undermined by injuries and a complicated adaptation in Germany, he failed to impose himself, or even to obtain a significant playing time (barely fifteen ends of matches).

And in the summer of 2018, when he returned temporarily to see his family there, he contracted malaria before returning to Germany. No preparation at the start of the season for the young nugget, forced to observe a medical quarantine in Wolfsburg.

For German leaders, the failure no longer seems to be in doubt. Offered on loan to several Belgian clubs, Osimhen therefore landed in Charleroi, lacking in confidence and short of form. The operation is all a risky bet. But in just three weeks, the player finally manages to reverse the trend. As of the first games of the Jupiler League, the obvious jumps out: the Belgian club smelled the good luck.

Osimhen quickly recovers most of his physical condition and, from September, he wins in the 11 holder to never leave him. His record makes him one of the most prominent artificers in his championship, with 19 goals scored in the 2018/19 season.

Unsurprisingly, the purchase option negotiated by Charleroi during the player's loan was exercised the following summer. The Belgian club pays the 3,5 million euros requested by Wolfsburg and then sells the player in Lille, in exchange for a check of fifteen million euros.

Lille and the previous Pépé

On the Losc side, the objective is simple: find a replacement for Nicolas Pépé - Prix Marc-Vivien Foé 2019 - whose 22 goals in the 2018/19 season allowed the club to seek 2nd place in Ligue 1 Courted everywhere in Europe, the Ivorian then leaves the north of France without surprise, direction Arsenal and for an amount of around 80 million euros.

The good financial blow is undeniable, but the sports loss promises to be difficult to compensate. And yet ... From his first match, against FC Nantes, Osimhen signed a double for the opening of Ligue 1. Then against Saint-Etienne, two days later, same price. The beginnings are thundering, and the balance sheet at the end of the season, even truncated by the health crisis linked to the Covid-19, confirms the trend (13 goals and 4 assists in 27 games).

Convincing on the lawn, the player is also unanimous outside. In an interview with La Voix du Nord, the former Losc doctor Patrick Flamant, evokes for example a boy "very determined" and "always in the nails". "It feels like nothing but football exists next door," he says. This passion seems to have conquered the Lille supporters, who elected him "Mastiff of the season", on June 2. A "darling" of the public who, even in mourning for the death of his father a few days earlier, has since not failed to reaffirm his love for the club.

From there to be able to affirm that Osimhen could be a candidate for his own succession next season? Not so sure, since offers are piling up on the desk of Lille leaders. Naples, Liverpool, and other big names in European football seem willing to break their piggy bank - between 40 and 80 million euros - to afford the services of the Nigerian. By the very admission of the president of Losc, the "wide range" of candidates would come from "three different championships". And no doubt that like last year with Nicolas Pépé, Lille will have a hard time refusing such a substantial offer.

• The complete classification of the Prix Marc-Vivien Foé 2020:

1 - Victor Osimhen (Nigeria - Lille OSC) ► 284 pts

2 - Islam Slimani (Algeria - AS Monaco) ► 95 pts

3 - Yunis Abdelhamid (Morocco - Stade de Reims) ► 89 pts

4 - Habib Diallo (Senegal - FC Metz) ► 52 pts

5 - Mbaye Niang (Senegal - Stade Rennais) ► 43 pts

6 ex-aquo - Hamari Traoré (Mali - Stade Rennais) ► 37 pts

and Idrissa Gueye (Senegal - Paris SG) ► 37 pts

8 - Denis Bouanga (Gabon - AS Saint-Etienne) ► 27 pts

9 - Edouard Mendy (Senegal - Stade Rennais) ► 24 pts

10 - Andy Delort (Algeria - Montpellier HSC) ► 13 pts

11 - Moses Simon (Nigeria - FC Nantes) ► 10 pts


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