Gift Orban: The rising Nigeria star snubbed by Peseiro

Orban dazzles in Europa Conference League with hat-trick

After missing out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the Super Eagles of Nigeria are setting sights on making it to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast.

Already they have two wins from two games in the qualifiers against Sierra Leone and São Tomé and Príncipe by an aggregate of 10 goals. Even though it was against minnows, it gives credence to the attacking talent at coach Jose Peseiro’s disposal led by the mercurial Victor Osimhen

The Super Eagles prepare to face Guinea-Bissau in a doubleheader on March 24 and 27 with Osimhen leading the attacking line after constantly making global headlines, thanks to his top form with Napoli where he leads the Serie A goalscorers’ chart with 19 goals.

The Super Eagles are, however, not only about Osimhen with Terem Moffi, Ademola Lookman, Paul Onuachu, Kelechi Iheanacho, Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze are all capable of leading the frontline, and one man in Gift Orban seems to have joined the long list but did not make the shortlist for next week’s AFCON fixture.

The Bison FC academy graduate grew up in Nigeria and Togo and it was while in the capital of the latter that he was spotted by a Nigerian scout during a trials program.

He moved to Nigeria for more trials and was spotted by scouts from Norwegian club Stabaek FC who invited him for a trial in Europe. Orban was impressive and was signed initially on loan in 2022 before it was made permanent the same year for a reported fee of €100,000. In total, Orban netted 19 competitive goals for Stabaek FC and provided a further seven assists in 24 appearances.

Such blistering form was too good not to notice, and Belgian Pro League outfit Gent came knocking for his services during the 2023 winter transfer window and signed him for €3 million.

Orban carried on from where he left on in Norway and has found the back of the net 12 times in nine games, seven of them coming in the last two games against Zulte Waregem and Istanbul Basaksehir in the Pro League and UEFA Europa Conference League where he netted four goals and a hat-trick respectively.

Orban putting in this kind of form in such a short space of time will make it hard for Peseiro to overlook him. The problem and question is whom does Peseiro get to call up on a regular basis if their form persists?

It’s worth noting that aside from the long list of forwards mentioned earlier, there are still some players eligible to play for Nigeria but have not been called up. These include Victor Boniface who plays for Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium and English-born players Chuba Akpom and Nathan Tella who are lighting up the Championship with more than 40 goals between them for Middlesbrough and Burnley respectively.

Orban’s consistency could also potentially see him moving up the ladder to another big European club in the near future.

It could be similar to how Osimhen impressed while on loan in Belgium for Sporting Charleroi on loan from Wolfsburg and made the switch to Lille in France before the big €80 million switch to Napoli, all happening in the space of two years, and of course, Osimhen is still linked yet with even bigger clubs, with his valuation now worth over €100 million.

Also, Orban putting in these fine displays just at the age of 20 makes him an exciting prospect as he is the youngest of all the previously-mentioned forwards.

Peseiro might be under pressure to win silverware for Nigeria after his predecessor Gernot Rohr failed to do so but the pressure of selecting too many forwards is a luxury he probably wished he did not have at this time.

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