Raphael Onyedika

Onyedika: Is he the new Pogba?

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Nigerian midfielder, Raphael Onyedika, has earned himself his first Super Eagles call-up for the international friendly encounter between Nigeria and Algeria at the Oran Olympic Stadium on Tuesday.

His blistering start to the 2022/23 season for new side Club Brugge did not go unnoticed by Super Eagles manager, Jose Peseiro, who called up the 21-year-old to replace Southampton’s Joe Aribo for the upcoming friendly against the Desert Foxes.

There is already a heightened level of expectations from Nigerians, who have seen what the midfielder is made off in this season’s Champions League group stage games since joining the Belgian champions from Danish side Midtjylland at the beginning of the season on a five-year deal worth €10m.

He becomes Brugge’s second most expensive signing ever and has featured prominently for them since then.

He was in full action as Brugge defeated Zaidu Sanusi’s Porto 4-0 in the UEFA Champions League last week. He also started in the narrow 1-0 win over Germans Leverkusen.

Onyedika is a versatile player who plays mainly as a central midfielder and is capable of playing on the right flank, in a holding role, as a deep-lying playmaker, in a box-to-box role, or even as an attacking midfielder, which offers Peseiro a quality choice due to the injury suffered by first choice defensive midfielder Wilfried Ndidi.

Onyedika is skilful and is very good at aerial balls. He is strong and has also drawn praise for his flair, speed as well as ability to hold up the ball.

He was on the radar of many top European clubs, and was close to joining Serie A champions AC Milan last summer.

The emerging star cut his teeth at the famed Ebedei academy in Nigeria, regarded as the country’s foremost talents production platform, before  moving to FC Midtjylland in 2019 as a youth player.

He was promoted to the senior team in 2020, before he had a breakthrough year, which saw him become one of the best Nigerian performers in Europe last season.

The 21-year-old midifeld orchestrator was ever present for the Danish giants in his first senior campaign with them, playing a total of 48 games, scoring four goals and providing three assists across all competitions.

He sealed it by leading the club to their domestic Cup win, winning the league’s Player of The Month award last November, before scooping the Best Young Player Award in Denmark for the 2021/22 season.

Before confirming the deal to bring Onyedika to Brugge, club manager Carl Hoefkens said he could not wait to welcome Onyedika to the Jan Breydel Stadium.

“I hope to see him (Onyedika) very soon with us, I just want to work with the best players possible. I know his quality, so I’m looking forward to it,” Hoefkens said.

As Hoefkens stated, Onyedika has proven himself to be a quality player; one of the best in his position and his performances this season has continued to impress the club manager.

Onyedika has revealed how he draws inspiration from his Juventus counterpart, Paul Pogba, as he looks forward to achieving success with his new side Club Brugge.

Plenty of similarities, including physical, have been drawn between the Super Eagles youngster and the former Manchester United midfielder and Onyedika is not surprised given Pogba is his role model.

“I like to win duels and I am also good with the ball at my feet,” he told Belgium’s Voetbal Nieuws.

“Personally, I look up to Paul Pogba. A lot of people say we look alike, but I just want to be the best version of myself.”

Before signing for the Belgian side, Onyedika says it was an easy choice as they would help him achieve his aims to win everything.

“I chose Club Brugge because they are the best team in Belgium and because they want to win everything. I also want to win everything, so that’s a good combination. I have also heard that Club Brugge has the best supporters in Belgium,” he added.

Onyedika has proven that he is able to use his abilities to try and win everything, and he would be looking to mark his Eagles’ debut with a win against the Desert Foxes.

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