Friday, August 11, 2017

The Future: Nigeria's G.O.A.T. (Vol. 5)

In the last few weeks, I have dedicated space to write-ups on Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T) players and coaches of Nigeria based on accomplishments in the senior national team. With this final piece, there are now five volumes of write-ups. In this final volume, I do not identify G.O.A.T. players or coaches. Those already identified can be found by clicking on this link. Instead, this final volume is predictive i.e. it predicts who may be a future G.O.A.T. and those who are current G.O.A.T. but likely to fade in the future.

Those likely to Fade
Clearly, the G.O.A.T. list is never permanent. It changes as new players come of age, old ones fade away, and new guys outdo achievements of the old. This dynamic process means that the list of G.O.A.T players and coaches in 1995 cannot be the same in 2005 or in 2015 and, thus, the expectation is the G.O.A.T today will surely change in the future.

In any case, I want to examine those who have been listed as G.O.A.T starters or honorable mentions who are likely to fade in the near future. One starter may be Sunday Oliseh. Beyond him may be  Yisa Sofoluwe who is currently listed as an honorable mention. The G.O.A.T. coach could also change quickly.

Sunday Oliseh is currently listed as a G.O.A.T. largely based on statistics but those statistics are not beyond reach by any means. I believe that an excellent defensive midfielder who has spent a significant number of years as a top performer on a very good Nigerian national team can quickly overtake Oliseh as G.O.A.T. Oliseh's position is vulnerable because his qualitative support is not overwhelming. Moreover, Nigeria currently produces quite a number of good defensive midfielders.

Yisa Sofoluwe, as G.O.A.T, is also likely to fade in the future. He has more qualitative cache than Oliseh considering the support he received during his playing days and he has some statistical support. None of those is insurmountable. However, how soon that would occur is difficult to predict. It may take at least a few more years because none of the active national team defenders has shown any sign of being classified as a G.O.A.T player in the near future.

The Possible New Names
On the bright side, there are three active players in the G.O.A.T. team. Those are Mikel Obi and Vincent Enyeama as starters and Obafemi Martins listed as an honorable mention. That is a significant number considering that players from 1949 to date were considered for spots.

Notably, the current senior national team has a preponderance of young players. This means that thus, it is very early to predict which of them may join Obi, Enyeama, and Martins as G.O.A.T. in the future. However, there are a few mid career players on the team. Of those, only one stands out as a future G.O.A.T and that is Victor Moses.

Victor Moses is a dominant wide forward for the Nigerian national team. Importantly, Nigeria has only lost three games in which Victor Moses was on the field. That is a significant statistic. In those three games, one was an international friendly against the United States. The other two games were against  France at the World Cup and Egypt in an AFCON qualifier. Importantly, his dominant play meets an important career for G.O.A.T.  He was instrumental to Nigeria winning the 2013 AFCON.

On the downside, though, Moses has missed critical games and those absences may cause rifts with national team managers. Such a rift may shorten his career with the national team and ultimately affect opportunities for a future G.O.A.T position.

This concludes a view of the G.O.A.T players and coaches. It is a view that has unearthed surprises, for me, as some players that I would have selected subjectively did not make it because there were other players with better stats. Importantly, I believe that using the combination of qualitative and quantitative measures is important in this exercise even if it ultimately eliminates some players that we would have wished as G.O.A.T. players. Of course, there is an argument that G.O.A.T. should cover club careers, even those completed abroad. I do not think that such club careers should count, except in a process to unearth the Best Ever Foreign-Based Nigerian Players. A G.O.A.T team of Nigerian players should be one where players are compared, at the highest point of competition, wearing the colors of Nigeria and not those of a foreign club. That shirt is the green and white of the Nigerian senior national team.