2018 started off as one of the toughest years for Ahmed Musa since he turned professional, but he flipped it and on Monday night at the Eko Hotel and Suites Convention center, that determination to succeed was rewarded as he clinched the award for Nigeria’s best player.
Limited to a single bench appearance in the Premier League at Leicester in 2018, he managed just one goal in all competitions for the senior team before his demotion to the U23s.
Subsequently he was loaned off to CSKA Moscow, where he would take up the task of saving what was left of a near disastrous season – and it wasn’t just at club level.
Likewise for the national team, Musa struggled to make an impression; his blitzing pace, signature cut ins and sumptuous “television” goals, were non-existent for the most part.
He wasn’t scoring goals and his performance levels dropped, forcing the Coach to reduce his minutes as Nigeria sought to pick a World Cup ticket in what was dubbed the group of death.
But, Russia was a breath of fresh air for the former Kano Pillars man as he started showing, once again, the quality he possessed, helping CSKA Moscow reach the quarter-final of the Europa League.
The club finished second in the Russia Premier League and in his 16 appearances for the Armeitsy he scored 7 times – the joint third highest goal that season.
He then took that form to the World Cup where he netted two goals in Nigeria’s 2-0 win over Iceland – the team’s only victory in Russia.
That year he would finish as Nigeria’s record top scorer in the World Cup and produced one of the best moments at the Volgograd Stadium during the tournament in Russia.
It was truly a year Musa surmounted the odds; eventually moving on from Leicester City permanently to join Saudi Arabian club side Al Nassr.
Thus the accolades he received at the award night on Monday – albeit in absentia – were truly deserving.
He not only emerged the player of the year – beating Odion Ighalo and Alex Iwobi – he also picked up goal of the season award – picking it ahead of Ighalo and Kevin Itoya.
He had been counted out in the morning, but by night in 2018, Musa further showed he still had the Midas touch.