The Super Eagles striker was top scorer in the Portuguese second-tier league and now IKENWA NNABUOGOR writes he is on the verge of doing same in the Italian Serie B…
Simeon Tochukwu Nwankwo, simply called ‘Simy’ in Italy, has often left his best shots in Europe in the lower leagues as he he first proved in Portugal.
‘Simy’ fired home a hat-trick in the heartwarming 3-0 bashing of league leaders Benevento to up his tally to 16 and maintain their second spot in the Italian Serie B as they look good for a return to the Serie A.
His efforts helped maintain their promotion-chasing side Crotone’s second spot as they push for promotion back to the Serie A where they struggled before they were relegated in the 2017/18 season.
His 16 goal tally currently stands him a goal shy of joint top scorers Pietro Iemmello of Perugia and Trapani’s Stefano Pettinari, on the Serie B top scorer’s chart.
The former Gil Vicente front man continues to show class in front of goal in the second tier football with his impressive goals record.
Last season, he powered home 14 goals to finish the club’s top scorer, but his efforts were not enough to get them back to the Italian top flight.
He emerged top scorer in the Portuguese second division with 20 goals in the 2015/16 season and may well repeat the feat across the border in Italy with seven games still to be played.
Should ‘Simy’ repeat his Portugal feat in Italy at the end of this season, he will become the first Nigerian striker to emerge top scorer in the second-tier league in two different countries.
The feat will automatically better the efforts of renowned Nigerian strikers late Rashidi Yekini and Peter Utaka, who emerged top scorers in the second division in Portugal and Belgium, respectively.
‘Simy’ has not been able to replicate his smoking second tier football scoring form in the top flight, criminally firing blanks in 15 games in his very first top flight football in the Portuguese Premiera Liga in the 2013/2014 season for Gil Vicente.
However, his combined effort of 19 goals in his top-flight appearances for Gil Vicente and Crotone in three seasons were nowhere near the chase for the top scorer’s prize.
His 11-goal return for Portimonense at the end of the 2012/2013 season in the Portuguese second division assured top flight football for the first time for the previously unknown rangy striker, but it appears his best groove has been in the second division.
Perhaps, Utaka is the only striker out of Nigeria to have top scored in the second division and the top flight after he fired himself to the top of the scorer’s charts in Denmark and Japan for OB Odense and Sanfreece Hiroshima, respectively.
But ‘Simy’, at 28, still has some years ahead of him to up his records and try to repeat his efforts at top flight level.
His goals have almost but shot him and his Crotone side back to Seria A next season and he will be expected to better his top flight goal scoring record should he return to top-flight football next season.
A move away to a more illustrious club either in Italy or abroad can make things happen for him in this regard.
It will indeed be exciting if ‘Simy’ emerged top scorer in Italy or one of the top European leagues and that will indeed make Utaka’s achievement look like a child’s play.
But achieving this lofty feat will take breath taking performances from this Onitsha-born striker to make it happen.
Before then, take a bow ‘Simy’ for your commendable efforts in front of goal in the lower rungs of European football.