Chukwueze no more! Ghana forward takes mantle of best African in LaLiga

The reign of Samuel Chukwueze as La Liga's African Player of the Season has come to an end, with Ghanaian attacker Inaki Williams taking home the prestigious award for the 2023/24 season.

Chukwueze's impressive 2022/23 campaign with Villarreal, where he notched 13 goals and 11 assists in 50 appearances, propelled him to the top spot the previous year. However, his move to Italian giants AC Milan for a hefty €28 million hasn't yielded the desired results. The winger has struggled to secure a permanent place in the starting line-up, often overshadowed by established names like Rafael Leao, Christian Pulisic, and Yunus Musah.

Statistics paint a clear picture: Chukwueze has split his Serie A season between starting roles and appearances from the bench. While he's featured in 24 league matches, only 12 have been starts. Despite manager Stefano Pioli's praise, Chukwueze seems to be behind in the pecking order for Milan's wing options.

A recent resurgence, however, offered a glimmer of hope. Before being sidelined by an injury, Chukwueze managed to earn starting positions in AC Milan's last two league games against Genoa and Cagliari, even contributing an assist against the latter.

Samuel Chukwueze no more! Ghana forward takes mantle of best African in LaLiga
Photo by Icon Sport

However, the penultimate round of La Liga matches last weekend marked the official end of Chukwueze's reign. Ghanaian forward Inaki Williams was crowned the new La Liga African Player of the Season during a ceremony at Estadio San Mames on Monday.

The 29-year-old forward, who plays for Athletic Bilbao, has had a solid season. He's racked up 12 goals and 3 assists in 34 appearances for his team. 

Interestingly, Williams only switched his international allegiance to the Black Stars of Ghana two years ago. Since then, he's made 17 appearances for the Black Stars and even participated in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. A curious twist of fate sees him playing alongside his younger brother Nico Williams, who represents Spain at the international level.

This changing of the guard in La Liga's African Player of the Season award reflects the dynamic nature of football. While Chukwueze's struggles highlight the challenges of adapting to a new club and league, Williams' consistent performance signifies the talent pool that African players bring to the Spanish top flight.

No Nigerian successor for Samuel Chukwueze: Discussing Sadiq's season and missed nomination

The coveted La Liga African MVP Award has a new champion – Ghanaian forward Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao. This news comes with a tinge of disappointment for Nigerian fans, as there's no Nigerian representative succeeding Samuel Chukwueze, the previous winner.

While Umar Sadiq, a Nigerian striker playing for Real Sociedad, didn't make the final shortlist, his season warrants a closer look.

Sadiq hasn't enjoyed a straightforward season. Despite featuring in 26 matches, only 12 were starts. However, averaging 43 minutes per game demonstrates his impact even when coming off the bench. His contribution of three goals and one assist is a respectable showing, given his limited starting opportunities.

Samuel Chukwueze no more! Ghana forward takes mantle of best African in LaLiga
Photo by Icon Sport

The voting process

The voting process, meticulously conducted by a jury comprising African journalists from 31 countries and fan votes, awarded points based on the players' performances. 

One point was allocated for the third-best player, two points for the second-best, and three points for the best player. In the event of a tie, the player with more selections as the best player claimed the victory.

Past winners, such as Yassine Bounou of Sevilla FC and Nigeria’s Samuel Chukwueze, during his time at Villarreal CF, have set a high standard, and Inaki's triumph this season is a testament to the continued excellence of African footballers in LALIGA.

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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.