Under the radar alternatives to Victor Osimhen
Top-level centre forwards are being bought and sold within football for increasingly exorbitant fees. This past summer the most high-profile transfers regarding forward players saw Harry Kane move from Spurs to Bayern Munich for a reported £100M fee and Randal Kolo Muani move from Eintracht Frankfurt to PSG for £80M.
Arguably, however, those fees are going to be dwarfed as it is looking increasingly likely that the Nigerian international forward Victor Osimhen will be leaving the Serie A side Napoli at some point in the near future. It is somewhat surprising that the relationship between Osimhen and Napoli has deteriorated so rapidly. It was just last season that Osimhen was being hero-worshipped by the extremely passionate fans of the club as he led Napoli to their first Serie A title in 33 years.
Things at Napoli, however, are rarely straightforward and after the title-winning coach Luciano Spalletti left the club in the summer their start to the 2023/24 season has been slow at best. This led to an incident where the club's social media account released a video that appeared to mock Osimhen for missing a penalty. With talks around a new contract, widely publicised at the end of last season by the club's owner Aurelio De Laurentis, having stalled now it appears increasingly likely that Osimhen’s future will lie away from Napoli, and probably away from Serie A.
The bidding war for Osimhen is likely to be intense given his playing profile and the fact that he is only 24 years old. As such his eventual price when he does move is likely to be extortionate as his eventual fee could surpass the £100M that Bayern Munich paid to secure the services of Harry Kane. In this article though we will use Osimhen as a base profile before using the Smarterscout platform to show how we can filter data and identify players with a similar playing profile who are perhaps under the radar at the moment.
First of all, however, we have to understand exactly what we are looking for in terms of a similar profile to Osimhen.
Osimhen is the very definition of a modern centre forward. From a tactical perspective, he is capable of playing as a lone striker or as part of a two. He is tall, powerful and quick with the ability to receive with his back to goal and to stretch the opposition defence with pace when running behind the defensive line. When the ball comes into the opposition area he is aggressive and intense in terms of his movement to attack the ball whether on the ground or in the air.
Last season Osimhen ended the campaign with 34 goals and 5 assists in all competitions. This season, despite Napoli’s slow start he already has 12 goals and 1 assist this season.
Let’s start though by looking at Osimhen’s smarterscout profile from the 22/23 title-winning season.
The strengths of the Nigerian forward stand out immediately. Extremely high outputs in his style ratings in terms of his shooting, receptions in the opposition area and dribbles. If you look at his duel ratings though you can also see that Osimhen had an extremely high output in terms of his aerial duels in open play.
Using Smarterscout, however, we have more depth in terms of our searches and we can go back to look at the Smarterscout profile for Osimhen in the 19/20 season at Lille in Ligue 1. This allows us to judge his profile just before he moved to Napoli.
Here, we again see strong outputs in terms of his style ratings for shooting, for aerial, and once again his aerial duels in open play are strong.
This gives us a good base rate for our search.
The search criteria
The criteria for our smarterscout search is above. In terms of the model ratings, we have stipulated that attacking output is very important in our search. With skill ratings, we have aerial duels with ball in play set as somewhat important. Lastly, when it comes to style ratings we have set aerial duels and receiving in the opposition box as somewhat important and shooting as important.
These search criteria allow us to filter the Smarterscout database to find players that fit our profile of Osimhen. Now, on to our shortlist.
1. Tolu Arokodare, 22-years-old, Genk and Nigeria
The first player on our list is another Nigerian forward with the 22-year-old Genk forward Tolu Arokodare. He has had something of a nomadic career to date having played in Latvia, with Valmiera, in Germany, with Koln, in France, with Amiens and now in Belgium with Genk. In terms of his profile, Arokodare is a towering and physical forward and he is listed at 197cm / 6’5”. This, of course, means that he fits our profile at least from an aerial perspective! In terms of his tactical profile, Arokodare is also capable of playing as a lone striker or as part of a front two and his hold-up and link play is actually very good.
As you can see from his Smarterscout profile, so far this season, Arokodare has a rating of 99 for both shooting and receptions in the opposition area. He also has a rating of 75 in terms of his aerial prowess. This ability in the air then extends to his score in terms of duel ratings where his output for aerial duels with ball in play is 91.
Arokodare is perhaps less mobile than Osimhen but a lot of his skill set does match and for teams looking for a cheaper alternative to the Napoli forward he is an interesting option. If Arokodare continues to impress in Belgium over the course of this season we are likely to see significant interest in signing him next season.
2. Rafiu Durosinmi, 20-years-old, Viktoria Plzen and Nigeria
Next up we have another Nigerian forward (we are not searching for Nigerians on purpose!) in the 20-year-old Viktoria Plzen forward Rafiu Durosinmi. The young Nigerian forward initially played, in Nigeria, for a club or academy named box2box before he moved to Czechia in 2022 to join Karvina. Following a loan spell with Viktoria Plzen he made the move permanent at the start of this season for a fee reported to be £850K. Given that so far this season, in 9 games, he has registered 6 goals and 5 assists it is likely that his stay in Plzen will be a short one.
Durosinmi is another physically imposing forward and he is listed at 192cm / 6’3”. He is similar to Osimhen in that he is extremely mobile with the ability to play centrally, as an attacking midfielder or from the wide areas. He has extremely good pace and his intensity in terms of pressing off the ball and working for his team is impressive.
As you can see from the smarterscout profile above he registered, while still at Karvina, an output of 81 for shooting and 88 for receptions in the box. His out-of-possession outputs were also extremely impressive with a 90 for disrupting opposition attacks and 99 for recoveries on the ground. As you can see his output for aerial duels with ball in play were also impressive.
In short, given that this was a profile for a young striker playing for a relatively small side in Czechia the upside for a team to target this player and sign him was extremely high. Smarterscout gives you the ability to quickly identify these types of players.
3. Muhamed Tijani, 23-years-old, Slavia Prague and Nigeria
Next up we have yet another Nigerian! With a second forward who is currently based in Czechia in the 23-year-old Nigerian Muhamed Tijani. He initially played in Nigeria for 36 Lion FC before moving to Czechia to join Banik Ostrava. A series of loan spells then followed within Czechia before Tijani eventually moved again on a permanent deal at the start of this season to join Slavia Prague for a fee reported to be in the region of £1.26M.
Tijani is a forward who is perhaps most comfortable from a tactical perspective when leading the line as a lone striker. He is another physically imposing striker as he is listed at 191cm / 6’3” and he is extremely quick with the ability to stretch the opposition defences with runs behind.
His Smarterscout profile this season is impressive in terms of shooting and receptions in the opposition box although he is less impressive in terms of his style ratings when it comes to aerial duels. As you can see, however, he is another forward who works hard out of possession and he scored 99 for disrupting opposition build-up and recoveries in the opposition area.
Tijani is another forward in Czechia who is sure to be drawing admiring looks from around Europe.
4. Kevin Denkey, 22-years-old, Cercle Brugge and Togo
The final player on our shortlist is the 22-year-old Togo international Kevin Denkey. He is currently contracted to Cercle Brugge in the Belgian top-flight having initially developed in France with Nimes. He actually made the move to Belgium to join Cercle Brugge in 2022 for a fee that was reported to have been in the region of just £2M, a fee that the Belgian side are likely to make a considerable profit on in the future.
Denkey is another forward, similar to Osimhen, that can play either as a lone striker or as one of a striker partnership. He is not as tall as Osimhen or some of the others on our shortlist and he is listed at 181cm / 6’ although he does have a muscular and stocky physical build. Denkey is enjoying an extremely strong start to this season and at the time of writing, he has registered 8 goals in 10 matches.
Once again his smarterscout profile shows similarities to those shared earlier in this article of Osimhen. In terms of his style ratings, he has outputs of 84 for shooting, 86 for receptions in the opposition area and 86 for aerial duels.
As a slightly younger, and certainly cheaper, alternative to Osimhen, it certainly seems as though Denkey has a lot of quality.
While it is increasingly more likely that we will see Victor Osimhen leave Napoli in the near future there is only one side that will be able to secure his signature and only a handful of teams that will be in the chase to sign the striker from a financial perspective.
Using the tools available on Smarterscout we can filter to find profiles that match that of Osimhen that are currently under the radar and that will not be as coveted or as expensive.
This Smarter Thinking piece was created in partnership with Total Football Analysis