Alex Iwobi tops Nigeria Power Rankings for first time

For the second time in this pandemic-ridden year, international football returned to Africa in November, giving players additional opportunity to lay claim to ranking positions much closer to home.

Not all took advantage of the opportunity, however, but where some failed to perform in national colours others dazzled in their club strips.

1. Alex Iwobi (Everton)

Alex Iwobi finds himself enjoying atop these rankings for the first time, and it all comes down to his versatility.

Playing for Nigeria during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Iwobi ran the show from midfield as the Super Eagles raced to an early 4-0 lead against Sierra Leone, scoring two cracking goals and claiming an assist.

Iwobi was also partly responsible for the collapse that saw the Leone Stars fight back to draw 4-4, especially for equaliser, but he was back to his imperious self in the second leg as the Super Eagles drew 0-0.

And then he returned to Everton, and Nigerians were stunned to see him at right wing-back, where he produced a near-man-of-the-match showing against Fulham in the Premier League.

As if that positional change were not enough, Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti then deployed him at left wing-back in the next game, vs. Leeds United, and, again, Iwobi showed that he was capable of doing a sterling job.

Hard not to pick him!

2. Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto)

Sanusi helped to set up Victor Osimhen for Nigeria's second goal against Sierra Leone, but he combined with Iwobi to give away the fourth goal and then was benched by Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr for all 90 minutes of the second leg.

My, how he responded when he returned to FC Porto.

Sanusi posted a man-of-the-match performance in the UEFA Champions League, scoring the opening goal as the Portuguese club claimed a 2-0 win at Marseille. That performance earned him a place on the official Team of the Week, no mean accomplishment for a youngster playing in his first season at that level.

He was just as commanding back in the Portuguese Liga, earning more rave reviews as Porto defeated his former club, Santa Clara, to record their fourth win in as many matches in November.

3. Paul Onuachu (Racing Genk)

What does this young man have to do to find success in the green-and-white?

Doesn't really matter in this conversation as he is not this high in the Power Rankings on tthe basis of what was another forgettable day for Nigeria.

Onuachu replaced the injured Victor Osimhen with just over 10 minutes to play in the the 4-4 draw against Sierra Leone, but even he would barely remember he was on the field. And he did not even feature at all in the return leg.

Just like he did last time, the forward shook off that disappointment, returned to base, and promptly resumed scoring for his Belgian club. He bagged a goal in the 4-1 win over Excel Mouscron, and a double a week later in the 5-1 win at Cercle Brugge to take his tally to 12 goals in 13 games for Genk this season.

The latter could so easily have been a hat-trick. Halfway through the first half, Onuachu spotted the goalkeeper off his line and took aim; only a rapid retreat rescued the keeper.

The wins were enough to see Genk go joint top of the Jupiler League table with Beerschot.

The question now is: How does Rohr solve a problem like Onuachu?

4. Leon Balogun (Rangers)

If there is one player who emerged from the Sierra Leone debacle smelling of roses, it was Balogun. He ran the show at the back, like he has done since the restart of football, and it is instructive that the Leone Stars scored their final three goals in Benin City after he was taken off injured.

And in the second leg, his presence once again brought much needed calm and stability as the Super Eagles shut down their hosts.

On his return to club football, he helped Rangers to a 4-0 win over Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership, the Gers' last goal coming from the penalty spot after he was wrestled down in the box for making himself his usual threatening nuisance.

5. Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam)

It is hard to take a positive from a goalkeeper when he lets in four goals.

But in Okoye's case, it is hard to lay blame at his door for more than one of the goals as Nigeria coughed up their 4-0 lead to draw 4-4 against Sierra Leone; and when he recorded a clean sheet in the very next game, there would have been sighs of relief for him.

As is the central theme of this month's performances, Okoye returned to his club with a vengeance.

Sparta Rotterdam recorded a 6-0 shutout of ADO Den Haag in their first game after the international break, and Okoye then really showed his worth in the next game, a 1-0 loss to giants PSV. in the Dutch Eredivisie He produced five saves, including from a penalty kick and one sequence of two reaction stops on the bounce from point-blank range. He has four clean sheets in his past five games for Sparta.

6. Olanrewaju Kayode (Sivasspor)

'Larry' Kayode is yet to score a league goal in the Turkish Super Lig, but he is tearing it up in the UEFA Europa League -- in which competition he has scored in all four games Sivasspor have played, two in November.

His latest goal was a glancing header to tie up the game at 2-2 away to Qarabag, scoring within one minute of going on as a substitute.

7. Chidozie Awaziem (Boavista)

It takes plenty of trust in a player's ability to hand the captain's band to a loanee who has not spent even half a season at the club, but that is exactly the reward that goes with the level of performance that Awaziem has put in at Boavista.

With regular captain Javi Garcia suspended, Awaziem was handed the band.

Behind his leadership, bottom-of-the-table Boavista recorded their first win of the season -- a huge 3-0 upset over Lisbon giants Benfica.

The Nigeria defender produced three clearances and two key tackles, won four duels, and recorded a 70% pass completion tally.

8. Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)

November was a quietish month for Samu, but he still managed to score two fine goals -- including a spectacular effort against Sierra Leone in Benin City, where he sat defenders and and the goalkeeper down before rifling the ball into the roof of the net.

Before that, he had opened the scoring for Villareal as they dispatched Valladolid 2-0 in the Spain's La Liga. He finished the month with two goals and an assist.

9. Taiwo Awoniyi (FC Union Berlin)

Taiwo Awoniyi has enjoyed a good month, but it could have been better.

He scored his first goal of the season for Union Berlin in their 3-1 win at Hoffenheim, and then won a penalty in their next game against Eintracht Frankfurt. He should have scored a hat-trick by the end of the first half against Eintracht, only to be denied by spectacular goalkeeping and bad luck.

Union are riding an eight-game unbeaten streak to be sitting pretty in the top half of the German Bundesliga table.

10. Oluwafemi Ajayi (Al Ahly)

Christmas came early for Junior Ajayi, who helped Egypt's Al Ahly to win the CAF Champions League final.

He played only one game in November, but lifting Africa's most prestigious trophy is a cheat code that earns Ajayi a place in these Power Rankings. And rightfully so, especially considering he played while carrying an injury.