Nigeria Power Rankings: Senior man Kelechi takes top honours in March

It could have been easy to overlook what happened in the weeks before the international break, but not when Kelechi Iheanacho was involved.

The forward went on a headline-hugging hot streak of goals and outstanding performances for Leicester City before joining Nigeria.

Those showings were enough to put him top of the rankings, displacing Genk forward Paul Onuachu.

Wilfred Ndidi drops down a place, too, as Simy Nwankwo makes his way up a very close top four.

Goalkeeper Maduka Okoye also forced his way in with a man of the match award and some valuable clean sheets.

1. Kelechi Iheanacho, Leicester City

Few, if any, can argue against senior man Kelechi as the top dog in this month's Power Rankings. Kelechi played a blinder in what must be his most productive month in England and, of course, for Leicester City.

The 24-year old played in four games for the Foxes, three of those English Premier League matches, and he scored in all four, beginning with an exquisite volley against Burnley as Leicester drew 1-1.

He scored seven in four games, including that hattrick against Sheffield United that put him in a rare bracket of Nigerians to have scored a trey in the English Premier League.

But even more impressive was his brace against the mighty Manchester United to fire Leicester City to the FA Cup semifinals.

Overall, Iheanacho looked sharp, hungry and very much the player that Nigerians thought they had when they saw him at Under-17 level. He did not score for Nigeria in two games of the final round of Nations Cup qualifying, but Kelechi had done enough to secure his spot as the senior man of this month's power rankings.

2. Simy Nwankwo, Crotone

Were it not for the team he plays for and their deplorable situation in the Serie A, Nwankwo might be getting more respect and definitely more accolades, home and abroad.

Instead, the forward has been largely ignored on both sides of the continental divide, even as he continues too find the net with almost unerring regularity for the modest Crotone.

Nwankwo has scored 13 goals so far in the Serie A. Six of the goals came in March. Only Iheanacho has a better record. He opened the scoring in a 1-5 loss at Atalanta, then hit a brace in each of his next two games before finishing off with another lone strike against Bologna.

Sadly, his team lost all but one of those games - a 4-2 win at home to Torino - so it is almost easy to see why Simy is not making the headlines.

3. Wilfred Ndidi, Leicester City

But for the goalscoring prowess of the two players ahead of him, it is not inconceivable to see Ndidi atop this list.

His consistency as a holding midfielder of solid ability is hardly in doubt and he demonstrated that amply again in March, capping it off by being voted the Most Valuable Player in Nigeria's 3-0 win over Lesotho, where his class was evident from start to finish. It should not be long before we see Ndidi sitting No. 1.

4. Paul Onuachu, Genk

Onuachu just doesn't seem to know how not to score goals. With 25 goals already so far, he is one of the leading strikers in Europe. Only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski, with 35 goals, has scored more than the beanpole Nigerian.

But the biggest criticism of the forward has been his inability to replicate that form in the green and white of Nigeria.

Well, finally, Onuachu answered those critics with two well-taken goals in African Cup of Nations qualifying. The first of these could not have come at a better time.

With the game against Benin tied at 0-0, Onuachu popped up in the box to head in the rebound when Victor Osimhen's shot was saved by the goalkeeper.

In the grand scheme of things, the goal was not that critical, as the Super Eagles had already secured qualification prior to kickoff. But it was important in its own right, both to secure and cement group leadership and reassure the striker.

He did it again in the very next game, finishing a delightful move with a half volley from just inside the box, similar too the long range version he scored on debut two years ago.

5. Leon Balogun, Rangers

Ask Leon himself and he will tell you that the highlight of his season was winning the Scottish title with Rangers.

But for us, his slick, inside dribble move to get away from a Benin Republic forward as he brought the ball out of defence and initiate an attack would probably be it.

At 32 years old, Balogun continues to show that age is nothing but a number.

The defender was instrumental to Rangers' title charge and showed all of the skills in his toolbox as they went all the way in the Scottish Premier League.

He then returned home to help the Super Eagles keep two clean sheets against Benin and Lesotho to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations with an unbeaten record and four wins.

6. Moses Simon, Nantes

Nantes are struggling at the wrong end of the table, but their Nigerian wing forward is on a mission to haul them away from those relegation waters.

The Nigerian had no direct assists in March, but it his ability to take players on, attack the spaces in behind, and find balls that create challenges in the opposition area that make him such a dangerous customer. He also has two goals to his credit.

7. Sadiq Umar, Almeria

Umar is proving to be quite the revelation in the Spanish Segunda Division. Fifteen goals so far and he doesn't look like stopping any time soon. The forward scored twice in March, his second coming against Malaga on the same day the Super Eagles played Lesotho.

That was a game that Umar was initially invited to, but could not attend due to COVID-enforced travel restrictions.

8. Henry Onyekuru, Galatasary

Onyekuru has made a wild return to Galatasary since his spell at Monaco. Two goals in four games in March took his tally for the season to five.

He may not be a prolific scorer, but Onyekuru never tires of running, taking people on, working hard or making defenders chase him to create openings for others.

- Nigeria Power Rankings: Onuachu stays top in February

9. Zaidu Sanusi, Porto

Sanusi was outstanding in his one-on-one battles against Ronaldo, as FC Porto eliminated European giants Juventus on the away goals rule.

Sanusi not only kept pace with the Juve frontman, but at one point, had him on the turf with a clean-as-as-whistle tackle in the box and stood imperiously over the legendary forward, beckoning on him to get up.

10. Maduka Okoye, Sparta Rotterdam

It is not always that goalkeepers get to win man of the match awards, but when one does it is the result of a pretty spectacular showing. And so it was when Okoye was named man of the match in Sparta Rotterdam's less than impressive 1-0 win against VVV Venlo.

In five games in March, Okoye kept four clean sheets, including one game with Nigeria, against Benin, even though he was barely tested.