But for coronavirus pandemic which paralysed sporting activities around the globe, one name that might probably have been on the lips of many Nigeria soccer fans now would have been Cyriel Dessers. After lighting up the Dutch Eredivisie with goals and emerged as the league joint top scorer, Super Eagles-bound Dessers is set to reenact his striking prowess in the Belgian First Division A after reaching agreement with Racing Genk.
Cyriel Dessers is on his way to Racing Genk after the Belgian First Division A side reached an agreement with Heracles Almelo to sign the striker on a four-year deal.
With 15 goals from 26 games, Dessers finished the 2019-2020 campaign as the joint top scorer in the Dutch Eredivisie and was guaranteed to move onto pastures new in the summer transfer window, having put himself in the shop window.
Two coaches Peter Maes and Stijn Vreven who previously managed Dessers have highlighted the qualities of the Super Eagles hopeful and reckon that he could be a special player for Genk.
Ex-Sporting Lokeren gaffer Maes told Het Laatste Nieuws via voetbalprimeur.be: “A good head, eager to learn and very self-aware of his qualities, a huge asset as a deep striker.
“Such a boy, face to the goal, war in the sixteen: we don’t have many in Belgium like that. If I bring in a player somewhere, certainly a young guest, that is with the feeling that he has potential in mind”.
Dessers flourished under the management of Stijn Vreven in the 2016-2017 season at NAC Breda and contributed to an incredible 42 goals in 40 appearances in the league, including the playoffs.
“Strong, fast, good footballing, decent head game. He had no weaknesses, but you felt that he could still make progress in all areas.
“He did that, you don’t just become top scorer in the Netherlands. Dessers has everything to become the chouchou of Racing Genk,” said Vreven.
Dessers previously represented Belgian clubs FC De Zwaluw Vechmaal, Union FC Rutten, SK Tongeren, St-Truiden, SK Tongeren, Oud-Heverlee Leuven and Lokeren prior to his move to the Netherlands in 2016.
With Belgium national team almost a mirage, Dessers has turned to the Super Eagles for succour and has only been hindered by the postponement of sporting activities caused by the dreaded coronavirus pandemic.
“After a series of discussions with the NFF President Amaju Pinnick, I have decided to fully commit myself to Nigeria and the Super Eagles and I’m going to work to be part of the team and fight for more success for the country. I am a proud Nigerian and I can’t wait to fulfil my dream of wearing the green-white-green,” Cyril Dessers had said.
Born to a Belgian father and Nigerian mother, the striker has been in domineering form for his club-side, Heracles Almelo, scoring 17 goals across all competitions thus far.
He declared his intention to play for Nigeria ahead Belgium last year, prompting the country’s football governing body to file his application to the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA).
He had however been cleared to represent Nigeria at international level and was expected to make his debut against the Leone Stars at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba in March but for coronavirus pandemic.
“Dessers is sure for Sierra Leone, what a squad that will be once he joins the rest of the squad, a deadly attack,” an optimistic NFF President, Amaju Pinnick Dessers Pinnick had said.
“I’m working hard every day at my club and I hope to be in the squad but I understand it’s hard and there’s a lot of competition, “Dessers had admitted.
“I will be ready and eligible to represent the Super Eagles. It will be a great honour of course for my family and friends. I made my choice two years ago even before I contacted the Nigeria Football Federation.”
The 25-year-old also revealed his biggest asset which would bring more quality to the team.
“My physicality is one of my strong points and I’m sure I will need to adapt, but I think it won’t be a problem to get used to it. I like hard and fair duels.”
The Heracles Almelo hotshot has confessed that he never considered playing for Belgium as it would have been impossible to break into Roberto Martinez’s squad.
Dessers having earlier revealed his desire to play for Nigeria – his mother’s place of birth – at international level rather than his country of birth Belgium, the NFF last year December, responded by declaring the 25-year-old available for selection anytime the Super Eagles handlers deem fit.
That public declaration by the country’s top football body ignited the patriotic pride in the Dutch Eredivisie’s top goalscorer, a player who was named the league’s November Player of the Month after scoring six goals and producing three assists.
“I think it is a huge honour that they (NFF) have contacted me and communicated to the outside world,” Dessers was quoted to have said.
“Belgium has never been a serious option, that’s why I don’t skip between the two countries. The Belgian team has the best generation ever, with top strikers like Lukaku, Batshuayi and Mertens. Boys my own age, who will play as long as I do. I have no illusions. ”
“I’ve never been to Nigeria. My grandfather and grandmother are from Nigeria, my mother was born in Europe. When I look in the mirror, I see half a Nigerian every day. I also have characteristics of an African.”
The 25-year-old who has never played for Belgium at any level has now chosen to play for Nigeria.
Dessers described himself as a ‘proud Nigerian’ and says he wants to fulfil his dream of wearing the green-white-green colours.
Dessers began his career at OH Leuven in his neighbourhood but made a solitary senior appearance. City rivals Lokeren gave him a fresh start in 2014. There he enjoyed regular football, hitting seven goals in 40 appearances across two seasons.
Dessers’ real poachers qualities came to the fore after crossing the border to the Netherlands in 2016. At second-tier Breda, he buried 29 goals in 40 matches, helping them secure promotion. He, however, elected to have his first feel of Eredivisie elsewhere – Utrecht. Two seasons at Stadion Galgenwaard yielded 19 goals.
Despite finishing sixth last season, Dessers ditched Utrecht for Almelo. He must be glad he did. With 12 goals, the 25-year-old is the division’s top marksman. An additional five assists mean the soon-to-be capped Super Eagle is involved in over 55 per cent of Heracles’ 29 strikes. He was named the league’s November Player of the Month after scoring six goals and producing three assists.
Dessers bears all the hallmarks of the archetypal goal-getter. Headers, scrappy follow-ups, 20-yard drives straight out of the top drawer, he notches them all.
While not blessed with abundant pace like the 19-year-old, he doesn’t relinquish possession without a fight.