Ademola Lookman has emerged as an unexpected talisman for Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations, stealing the spotlight from the anticipated star striker, Victor Osimhen.
Despite Osimhen being hailed as Nigeria’s best chance for success, it’s Lookman who has become the main attacking force for the Super Eagles on their journey to the final against Ivory Coast.
Lookman’s career faced challenges with less-than-remarkable spells at Everton, RB Leipzig, Fulham, and Leicester, but his move to Serie A’s Atalanta in August 2022 proved to be a transformative decision.
The 26-year-old winger’s impressive performances, contributing 15 goals and eight assists in the 2022-23 season, earned him the club’s Player of the Season award.
Despite facing public criticism from Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini about his attitude after a match against Lazio, Lookman used it as motivation to deliver outstanding performances in the following league matches before his AFCON call-up.
Born in London, Lookman initially represented England at youth levels but chose to play for Nigeria in January 2020. His international career took flight after FIFA approved his switch in February 2022, and he made his senior debut against Ghana a month later.
Lookman has been instrumental in Nigeria’s AFCON campaign, scoring crucial goals, including both in the 2-0 win over Cameroon and the decisive strike in the quarter-final against Angola.
As part of a potent front three alongside Osimhen and Moses Simon, Lookman aims to shine in the final against Ivory Coast.
In the upcoming showdown against Ivory Coast, Nigeria faces a motivated opponent seeking revenge. Despite Nigeria winning their group stage encounter 1-0, Ivory Coast has bounced back impressively, eliminating strong teams in the knockout stages. Lookman’s challenge includes breaking through the defense led by Willy Boly and Evan Ndicka.
If Lookman maintains his current form, the final could see him lifting the first senior trophy of his career, marking a remarkable journey from career challenges to unexpected AFCON hero.