By Olayinka Elebute
Supremely skilled, jet-heeled and lethal in front of goal, Philip Otele is the latest in a long line of exciting young Nigerian talents setting pulses racing all through Europe.
The 22-year-old wide-forward has emerged this season as one of the best performers in the A Lyga, the Lithuanian topflight, his return of five goals in eight games firing FK Kauno Žalgiris’ title challenge.
Born in Port Harcourt, Otele was educated in England where he played for the Teesside University and Wolviston FC in the Wearside Football League before joining Kauno Žalgiris last year.
His exploits in his second season at Žalgiris might be slipping under the radar of some fans back in Nigeria, but the lid has since been blown off his irrepressible talents in Europe and his name crops up with increasing frequency amongst senior figures and recruitment staff at some of Europe’s leading clubs.
And it’s not hard to see why he’s currently generating plenty of excitement if his brace in the 5-0 mauling of Nevezis is anything to go by.
With those two strikes, the 22-year-old displayed two very different aspects of his game which revealed the fullness of his talent.
First, he showcased his extraordinary dribbling skills to open scoring, leaving defenders in his wake with dainty footwork reminiscent of Jay Jay Okocha and then exhibited shrewd predatory instincts reminiscent of the legendary Rashidi Yekini to double his side’s lead.
His potential has been clear since his first season at Žalgiris and it came as no surprise when he was named the Young Player of the month for March.
Lithuania might not be a European football powerhouse, but the confident, intelligent and well-educated youngster made the move to the A Lyga where former Super Eagles vice-captain Ogenyi Onazi also plys his trade to enhance his chances of playing regular senior football.
The move also ensures that when the time comes, the Port Harcourt-born forward with a wide knowledge of the Nigerian and European game would be perfectly prepared to join one of Europe’s biggest sides as a first team player.
And that might happen as soon as this summer going by the covetous glances cast his way by Europe’s elite but for now, Otele is focused on driving his side’s title challenge and would be looking to add to his goals haul when Žalgiris visit Banga Gargzda over the weekend.
What is clear is that Otele’s talents are unlikely to go unnoticed by a wider audience for too much longer and it appears only a matter of time before he turns out in Nigeria’s famous green jersey for the Super Eagles.