Club football is finally back and clubs have been spending big in the transfer market to strengthen their squads — but not all great deals have to break the bank. Several players remain without a team after their contracts with previous clubs expired at the beginning of July. From the Nigerian angle, PUNCH Sports Extra’s JOHNNY EDWARD has put together an out-of-contract XI consisting of Super Eagles’ stars in a 3-5-2 formation, as we approach the September deadline.
Daniel Akpeyi (Goalkeeper)
Following a four-year spell, Akpeyi left South African giants Kaizer Chiefs, after making 69 appearances for the Amakhosi.
Akpeyi made 12 appearances for Chiefs last season, with the Nigerian keeping five clean sheets and conceding seven goals.
He made 175 appearances while featuring for Chippa United and Kaizer Chiefs in the Premier Soccer League, conceding 168 goals and keeping 63 clean sheets.
The 35-year-old, who has been plying his trade in South Africa since 2015, when he joined Chippa from local side Warri Wolves, is believed on the radar of PSL clubs Sekhukhune United and Royal AM.
Wherever he ends up, Akpeyi will bring a wealth of experience and quality with him as he continues his successful career.
He has made 19 appearances for the Super Eagles since his debut for the three-time African champions in 2015.
Shehu Abdulahi (right back)
Having left Turkish side Bursaspor in 2020, Abdulahi spent two seasons at Cyprus side, Omonia Nicosia, where he was part of the squad that won the Cypriot Cup in May.
The Nigeria international would add solidity to any defensive line, but his inconsistency means clubs could be wary of the defender, who can also function as a right-back.
Abdulahi, 29, is one of Nigeria’s trusted defenders and should hook up with one of the European sides before the transfer window closes.
Sunday Mba (midfield)
The scorer of the winner against Burkina Faso in the final of 2013 AFCON. Sunday Mbah was vital to Nigeria’s triumph at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
He was on loan at Rangers before the World Cup. After the world cup, there was a back and forth between Warri Wolves and Enugu Rangers when he wanted to leave for Bastia.
In December 2014, the midfielder signed for French side Bastia, after which he left for Yeni Malatyaspor in 2015. The 32-year-old is currently without a club.
Godfrey Oboabona (Centre-back)
Oboabona finds himself available for free following his departure from Georgia’s Dinamo Batumi in 2021. Considered a future star just a few years ago after he starred for Nigeria at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, the 31-year-old is a hot topic in the free agent market, with Scandinavian clubs reportedly keen on acquiring his services.
Juwon Oshaniwa (left back)
He was part of the squad that won the 2013 edition of AFCON in South Africa. The former Sharks left-back also made the 2014 World Cup squad. He dumped the now-defunct Sharks FC for Ashdod FC in Israel.
The 30-year-old then moved to Hearts in 2015, but that moved signaled the downturn for his career as he could only muster 24 appearances after spending two years in Scotland. In 2018, Juwon was signed by Akwa United, where he made 12 appearances. He ha been without a club since 2019.
Ramon Azeez (Midfield)
Azeez has been without a club since he was released by Granada in 2021, which is quite surprising. At 29, Azeez still has enough years left in the tank.
Rumours are linking the dynamic midfielder, who represented Nigeria at the 2014 World Cup, with a return to Segunda clubs, but the former Granada player has expressed a desire to play topflight football. His talent is not in doubt, though.
Mikel Obi (Midfield)
Former Chelsea star Mikel is one of the biggest Nigerian names in the free market. The mercurial midfielder made 374 appearances for the Blues and scored six times.
He won a Champions League title, one Europa League, two Premier League titles, three FA Cup titles and one Carabao Cup) title with Chelsea. At 34, Mikel will bring his winning mentality to his next club.
He last played for Kuwait SC in 2021 after earlier spells at Tianjin Teda, Middlesbrough, Tranzonspor and Stoke.
Mikel Agu (Midfield)
Somewhat of a forgotten man, Agu is currently without a club after his Spanish team Fuenlabrada released him this summer. He made an assist in 15 appearances before he was released.
He joined the club from Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes in January, but only stayed for just six months.
At 29, Agu still has a lot to give, but it may not just be in the biggest of leagues.
Interest in the ball-winning midfielder is not huge, but second-tier clubs could extend his career.
Ogenyi Onazi (Midfield)
Onazi parted company with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Adalah FC after guiding the club back to the topflight division.
Boasting an Italian cup title, the AFCON title with Nigeria and the Lithuanian league title with FK Zalgiris Vilnius, the 29-year-old should still have plenty to offer, but he is yet to get a deal.
According to his agent, Ayodele Makinwa, interest in Onazi has been rife, with European clubs keen on securing the defensive midfielder on a short-term contract.
Onazi was the star man of the Super Eagles with his commanding displays in the middle of Stephen Keshi’s side that won the 2013 AFCON as well as reaching the second round of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Brown Ideye (Striker)
Coach Ilhan Palut enticed Ideye into a move to Turkish club Goztepe, with the promise that the former Dynamo Kiev striker would be the club’s top marksman, but the Nigerian never flourished at the club as he scored only three goals and two assists in 32 games.
Ideye was part of the 2013 AFCON-winning Eagles squad, scoring in the 4-0 semi-final win over Mali, as the Nigerians cruised to a third continental triumph in South Africa.
Sly Igbonu (Striker)
Former Midtjylland forward Igbonu left FK Nizhny Novgorod four weeks after he signed a one-year deal with the Russian club over fear of his safety in March.
The 31-year-old became the first Nigerian footballer to quit the Russian Premier League as a result of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, taking advantage of a FIFA rule that allowed players to suspend or terminate their contracts tied to Ukrainian and Russian clubs for the rest of the 2021/22 season.
He made only two appearances for the club before his departure.