Kudus beats Super Eagles duo Lookman and Boniface to Europa League Goal of the Season

Nigeria and Atalanta star Ademola Lookman has missed out on winning the 2023/24 Europa League Goal of the Season after Mohammed Kudus edged him to the award. Lookman capped off a dream week when he was nominated for the Europa League Goal of the Season award days after starring in the final of the competition.

The 26-year-old’s second strike against Atalanta in the Europa League final was nominated alongside nine others for the best goal of this season’s competition. Lookman is currently enjoying the most productive campaign of his professional career after helping Atalanta to win their first-ever European trophy. The former Everton and RB Leipzig forward has been a key player in Gian Piero Gasperini’s team, having contributed 16 goals and nine assists in all competitions this term.

However, his most telling impact came in the Europa League final when he singlehandedly took down Xabi Alonso’s hitherto unbeaten Bayer Leverkusen. The Nigeria international netted a sensational hat-trick as Atalanta beat the Bundesliga champions 3-0 to inflict on them their first defeat in 52 matches.

Lookman’s clinical performance saw him named the man of the match after he became only the third Nigerian footballer to score in a Europa League final and the first African to score a hat-trick in the final of a major UEFA competition. He has also been immediately installed by fans and pundits alike as the favourite to win the CAF Player of the Year award after starring on the big stage.

Ademola Lookman, Victor Boniface nominated Europa League Goal of the Season 

Nigeria had two representatives among the Europa League Goal of the Season nominees after strikes by Atalanta's Lookman and Bayer Leverkusen's Victor Boniface were shortlisted. As fate would have it, both players reached the final with their respective teams. Each of Lookmam’s strikes in the Europa League final demonstrated his quality and proactivity when he senses danger. His first came by way of him taking advantage of Exequiel Palacio’s hesitance in the box to prod the ball home.

His second was more sophisticated, as he picked up a loose ball in the half-space, nutmegged Granit Xhaka to create an opening and then fired his shot beyond the reach of Leverkusen goalkeeper Matej Kovar. Lookman’s third goal also saw him displace his mark after bamboozling him with a few stepovers before unleashing a thunderbolt with his left foot that ended at the back of the net.

While each of Lookman’s goals was special, it was his second against Leverkusen that stood out for UEFA's Technical Observer Panel, who have named it as their top pick for the Europa League Goal of the Season. UEFA's Technical Observer Panel ranked Lookman's Goal ahead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s impressive strike against Marseille, while Mohammed Kudus’ brilliant solo goal against Freiburg, where he dribbled from his own half to score, was their third pick.

UEFA's Technical Observer Panel also picked Rafael Leao’s scorcher from the outside of the box against Slavia Praha as the fourth-best goal of this season’s Europa League, with Joao Pedro’s strike against Olympique Marseille completing the top five. Meanwhile, Victor Boniface's long-range strike in Leverkusen's 5-1 drubbing of Qarabag is further down the list as the eighth-best goal in the Europa League this season.

“The top ten goals of the 2023/24 UEFA Europa League campaign have been selected by UEFA's Technical Observer Panel, with Ademola Lookman's second strike of the final for Atalanta against Leverkusen named Goal of the Season,” a statement from UEFA said.

“Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's acrobatic finish against Ajax for Marseille earned a runner-up spot, while Mohammed Kudus claimed third for his solo effort in West Ham's 5-0 victory at home to Freiburg.”

Kudus beats Lookman, Boniface to Europa League Goal of the Season

Lookman’s outstanding performances in the Europa League, where he scored five goals and provided one assist in 11 games also saw him named in the team of the tournament, although Boniface missed out. The Super Eagles duo were, however, beaten to the Europa League Goal of the Season award by West Ham United star Mohammed Kudus.

Kudus’ impressive solo goal against Freiburg in the quarter-finals of the competition was adjudged as the Europa League Goal of the Season after a fan vote. The Ghana international scored a world-class goal when he took on almost every Freiburg player on his way to scoring.

Lookman’s second strike against Atalanta in the final, which was rated number one by UEFA's Technical Observer placed fifth, while Boniface’s long-range strike against Qarabag was voted as the seventh-best Goal in the Europa League. Following Kudus’ goal in second place was David Doudera, with strikes from Robert Andrich and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang taking the third and fourth places, respectively.

A statement from UEFA confirming the winner of the Europa League Goal of the Season said: “West Ham's Mohammed Kudus has won the fan vote for goal of the 2023/24 UEFA Europa League season.

“Mohammed Kudus's sensational solo effort for West Ham against Freiburg in the second leg of their round of 16 tie has been voted goal of the 2023/24 UEFA Europa League in a fan poll. The poll featured the top ten goals of the 2023/24 competition as selected by UEFA's Technical Observer panel, which were then put to a vote.”

Despite missing out on the Europa League Goal of the Season, both Lookman and Boniface have enjoyed successful seasons with their clubs. Lookman played a key role in Atalanta winning their first-ever European trophy, while Boniface was also an important player for Leverkusen as they were crowned Bundesliga champions and also won the DFB Pokal. Nigeria will be counting on both players when they face South Africa and Benin in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June, especially with Napoli forward Victor Osimhen ruled out due to injury.

See the final rankings for the Europa League Goal of the Season below:

1st – Mohammed Kudus – West Ham United vs Freiburg

2nd – David Doudera – AC Milan vs Slavia Praha

3rd – Robert Andrich – AS Roma vs Bayer Leverkusen

4th – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Olympique Marseille vs Ajax Amsterdam

5th – Ademola Lookman – Atalanta vs Bayer Leverkusen

6th – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Olympic Marseille vs Villarreal

7th – Victor Boniface – Bayer Leverkusen vs Qarabag

8th – Joao Pedro – Brighton and Hove Albion vs Olympique Marseille

9th – Darwin Nunez – Sparta Praha vs Liverpool

10th – Rafael Leao – Slavia Praha vs AC Milan

The numbers behind Lookman’s claim to CAF Player of the Year 

With 16 goals and nine assists to his name, Lookman is among the highest-scoring wingers in Europe this season. By also reaching the final of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) in the Ivory Coast, where he scored three goals, and firing Atalanta to the Europa League title, he has also enhanced his chances of winning the CAF Player of the Year award.

His numbers fall short when compared to his compatriots Victor Osimhen, who currently boasts 17 goals and four assists for Napoli, and Victor Boniface, who also has 21 goals and 10 assists this season. Mohamed Salah has had a great individual season too despite Liverpool’s struggles, with the Egyptian contributing 25 goals and 14 assists. Ghana’s Mohammed Kudus also slightly edges Lookman with his 18 goals and seven assists across all competitions this season. 

What Lookman has over all the aforementioned players, however, is his big-game moments and stepping up when it mattered most. The 26-year-old is the only contender to have won a European trophy and also has credit in the bank for his performance in the AFCON, where he was named in the team of the tournament after carrying Nigeria in the knockout stages.

None of the other players can match that. Kudus scored twice during the AFCON but exited with Ghana at the group stage, Boniface missed the tournament entirely due to injury while Osimhen failed to shine after a return of just one goal in seven matches. Salah also had to pull out of Egypt’s squad after suffering an injury in their second group match against Ghana. 

Lookman, therefore, has the upper hand when it comes to performances for both club and country. Dominating and winning the Europa League is already swaying enough and, in an AFCON year, his outstanding displays in the Ivory Coast further make his claim to the CAF Player of the Year crown more airtight. 

Kudus beats Super Eagles duo Lookman and Boniface to Europa League Goal of the Season
Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an Asante Kotoko fan and a passionate sports journalist with a little over five years of experience writing about African football.

His articles and features have been published in renowned news media like The Guardian, DW, Al Jazeera and Sportskeeda. His bylines can also be found in the UK journals World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.