Lookman’s Europa League heroics ignite Barcelona transfer talk

The Europa League final between Ademola Lookman's Atalanta and Victor Boniface's Bayer Leverkusen wasn't just about crowning a champion; it might have also served as a scouting ground for some of Europe's biggest clubs.

While FC Barcelona were reportedly present with other targets in mind, a surprise name stole the show and has emerged as a potential transfer target: Ademola Lookman.

The 26-year-old Nigerian winger wasn't just on the scoresheet for Atalanta, he completely dominated the final. His clinical hat-trick, including goals in the 12th, 26th, and 76th minutes, single-handedly secured victory for the Italian side and etched his name into history. Lookman became the first African player to score a hat-trick in a Europa League final, a feat that undoubtedly caught the eye of those watching.

Ademola Lookman's heroics align with Barcelona's needs

According to reports in Spain, Barcelona sporting director Deco and youth team coordinator Bojan Krkic were both present at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for the final. While their primary focus might have been on other players, Lookman's performance was impossible to ignore.

The Catalan giants are actively looking to bolster their attacking options, particularly seeking a player who can offer width and creativity. Lookman, with his ability to play effectively on both flanks and even in midfield, ticks several boxes on Barcelona's transfer wishlist.

A career of ups and downs finds new heights

The Super Eagles forward's journey hasn't been a straightforward one. After a promising start at Everton, loan spells at various clubs yielded mixed results. However, his recent move to Atalanta has unlocked his true potential. In the last two seasons, he's consistently delivered, amassing an impressive 30 goals and 16 assists in 76 appearances across all competitions for Atalanta.

His Europa League final heroics were just the latest chapter in his impressive resurgence, showcasing his talent, determination, and ability to perform on the biggest stage. This kind of form is exactly what Barcelona are looking for as they aim to rebuild their attacking prowess.

Lookman's profile fits the Blaugrana bill

Beyond his recent performance, Lookman possesses several qualities that align with Barcelona's traditional style of play. His pace, dribbling ability, and eye for a killer pass make him a perfect fit for their possession-based approach. 

Additionally, his versatility adds another dimension to their attack, allowing him to seamlessly switch positions and keep defenses guessing.

Transfer speculation heats up

With two years remaining on his contract at Atalanta, Lookman's availability in the transfer market adds another layer of intrigue. While his market value is estimated at around €30 million according to Transfermarkt, his Europa League heroics could potentially drive that price up.

Barcelona may face competition for his signature, especially considering his newfound stardom. However, the allure of playing for a club with such a rich history and passionate fanbase could be a significant factor in the 26-year-old's decision.

While Barcelona haven't officially expressed interest in Lookman, his performance in the Europa League final has undoubtedly put him on their radar. His profile aligns perfectly with their transfer needs, and his recent form suggests he has the ability to thrive at the highest level.

Whether Barcelona make a concrete move for Lookman remains to be seen. However, one thing is certain: the Nigerian winger has firmly placed himself in the transfer spotlight, and his future could well lie away from Atalanta. The coming weeks and months will be crucial as clubs across Europe analyse their options, and Lookman's name is sure to be a hot topic in transfer discussions.

Ademola Lookman favourite for CAF Footballer of the Year award

While the year is still young, the race for the 2024 CAF Footballer of the Year award is already heating up, and Ademola Lookman has emerged as a strong frontrunner. Traditionally awarded to the player with the biggest impact on the African football calendar year, Lookman's performances at both club and international level have him positioned for potential glory.

Last year's CAF Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen, secured the award primarily due to his club-level heroics with Napoli, who clinched the Serie A title. However, Lookman presents a more well-rounded case in 2024.

While the 26-year-old may not have lifted the AFCON trophy with Nigeria (who finished runners-up), his overall contributions throughout the year paint a compelling picture. He played a pivotal role in propelling Atalanta to two cup finals: the Coppa Italia and the Europa League. Notably, the Europa League final witnessed Lookman's historic hat-trick, etching his name in history and propelling him to the forefront of the CAF award race.

Ademola Lookman
Photo by Icon Sport

The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) holds significant weight in the CAF award selection process. Here too, Lookman shines. Despite Nigeria falling short in the final, Lookman's individual performance was undeniable. He earned a coveted place in the Team of the Tournament after scoring a remarkable three goals in the knockout stages.

Adding to his case, Lookman can claim the distinction of having arguably the most impactful season among any African player in Europe. His blistering form for Atalanta, culminating in their Europa League final appearance, is a testament to his brilliance.

Lookman's overall season statistics highlight his prowess: 15 goals and eight assists across all competitions, solidifying his value to Atalanta and bolstering his claim for the CAF award.

While the Ivory Coast national team emerged victorious in the most recent AFCON tournament, their individual players haven't quite matched Lookman's overall achievements. Franck Kessie, despite a strong performance in the AFCON, currently plays in the Saudi Arabian league, which could hinder his chances due to the perceived lower competitive level. Similarly, Sebastien Haller, who scored the winning goal for Ivory Coast, has been plagued by injuries and limited playing time with Borussia Dortmund, further weakening his candidacy.

Lookman's impressive showing across club competitions, his inclusion in the AFCON Team of the Tournament, and his position as the most impactful African player in Europe combine to create a compelling case for the CAF Footballer of the Year award.

With seven months remaining in the year, the race is certainly open, but Lookman has undoubtedly established himself as the early frontrunner. As the season progresses, it will be fascinating to see if the former Everton player can maintain his stellar form and ultimately claim the sought after CAF Footballer of the Year title.

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Toyosi Afolayan

Toyosi Afolayan is a sports journalist who breathes life into the games we love. He loves to combine insightful analysis with historical background, creating a richer understanding of sports. Afolayan's expertise ranges from captivating narratives to live broadcasts, captivating audiences across platforms like Ojbsport, AllNigeriaSoccer, TVC Entertainment, Bounce Networks, Kwara TV, ICIR, EaglesTracker, and NFF TV. His background in History and International Studies adds depth, revealing the connections between sports, politics, and national identity.