EXCLUSIVE: Kwambe says Lookman deserves to be African Player of the Year


EXCLUSIVE: Kwambe says Lookman deserves to be African Player of the Year

Lookman starred to help Atalanta win the Europa League
Lookman starred to help Atalanta win the Europa LeagueProfimedia
Former Nigeria international Solomon Kwambe claims Atalanta star Ademola Lookman deserves to be named as 2024 Africa Player of the Year.

The Super Eagle netted a hat-trick as his Italian side dominated Bayer Leverkusen 3-0, claiming the Europa League title in an electrifying final held at the Aviva Stadium.

Apart from his man-of-the-match display, several records tumbled for the former Everton and Leicester City man.

Lookman joined an exclusive club, becoming just the second player to net a hat-trick in the final of a significant European tournament while playing for an Italian team, following Pierino Prati's feat for AC Milan against Ajax in the 1969 European Cup.

His three goals mark the sixth hat-trick in the final of a major UEFA competition, breaking a decades-long drought since Jupp Heynckes' for Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1975 UEFA Cup.

Alongside Alex Iwobi (2019 Europa League) and Joe Aribo (2022 Europa League), Lookman now stands among the esteemed Nigerians who have scored in the final of a major UEFA competition. Furthermore, as the first African player to achieve a hat-trick in the final of a major UEFA competition, he has etched his name into history.

In admiration of the forward's remarkable display against the Germans, Kwambe, with 37 international caps for the three-time African champions, firmly believes that Lookman will clinch the title of the finest player on the African continent.

“Ademola Lookman delivered a stellar performance, showcasing why he's considered a world-class player. His display wasn't just impressive; it exemplified excellence. If you were to ask me to rate him, I'd give him a perfect ten out of ten,” the former FC Tulsa defender told Flashscore.

“He emerged as one of the standout performers during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, despite the Super Eagles narrowly missing out on the title. Carrying that same form to his club, he excelled both in Serie A and now the Europa League.

“Considering these achievements, it wouldn't be surprising if he were to be voted as the next African Player of the Year.

“There would be no controversies surrounding such a decision, given his stellar performance against Bayer Leverkusen. Currently, no other player seems to match his level of brilliance.”

During the 2023 AFCON, Lookman made significant contributions with three goals and an assist as Jose Peseiro’s team secured a second-place finish behind hosts Cote d’Ivoire, suffering a narrow 2-1 loss in the final.

In a remarkable season, the Anglo-Nigerian also notched up 15 goals and provided eight assists for Gian Piero Gasperini’s team.

Lookman crucial to Nigeria’s World Cup ambition

Nigeria continue their bid to qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup with crucial fixtures against South Africa and Benin, currently holding third spot in Group C.

Kwambe believes that Lookman's awe-inspiring form could be pivotal in helping Finidi George's outfit secure a spot in the global football fiesta.

Lookman with his match ball
Lookman with his match ballProfimedia

He added: “Those games will be very tough because there are high expectations from Nigerians with Finidi taking on this job. He definitely needs to show that he is the right man for the position.

“No country in Africa is a pushover, as every team aims to win. However, with the impressive form of Lookman and other Super Eagles stars like Victor Boniface, Nathan Tella, and Victor Osimhen, the road to qualification could be significantly smoother.

“Overall, Nigerian players are excelling abroad, which is a promising sign for the country's progress. If this trend continues, it won't just be about qualifying for the World Cup but also about competing to win when the tournament begins.”

What has been said about Lookman

After the final whistle in Dublin, his boyhood coach Felix Emanus admitted he had been dreaming about a night like Wednesday for Lookman.

“I send him a text before every game,” Felix told TNT Sports in an interview.

"What a great season, qualification for Champions League, the Italian Cup final and now the Europa League final. Time to put the icing on the cake and time to deliver one of those Waterloo-type performances.

“I can't tell you my emotions. I've been dreaming about this for a long time since he was a kid at Waterloo. I'd just like to say a few words to a couple of the coaches at Waterloo, all the people that have worked with Ademola to try and get him where he is. 

Lookman back in Italy with the trophy
Lookman back in Italy with the trophyAFP

“I cried when the third goal went in and I don't cry! People are probably watching this now and going 'you big sissy!'

“I'm so glad for Ade. He works so hard, he's a quiet lad - sometimes he's misunderstood for his quietness - but he's a great kid, wants to learn, wants to always get better and reach the top.

“To be honest with you, he thrives on the big stage, he loves it and he's never been frightened of it. When we used to take him for trials, I would be more nervous than him, he would be calm and cool and get the job done."

Shina Oludare
Shina OludareFlashscore
France gouvernement

Les jeux d’argent et de hasard peuvent être dangereux : pertes d’argent, conflits familiaux, addiction…

Retrouvez nos conseils sur joueurs-info-service.fr (09-74-75-13-13, appel non surtaxé)