🦅 Umar Sadiq: The Nigerian striker leading Almería’s promotion push
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🦅 Umar Sadiq: The Nigerian striker leading Almería’s promotion push

The 24-year-old Kaduna-born star has set LaLiga SmartBank on fire this season and is leading his side's promotion push. 

UD Almería hasn’t been in Spain’s top-flight since the 2014/15 campaign, but the club from the southern city of the same name is a serious promotion contender in 2020-21. Umar Sadiq, their towering 24-year-old Nigerian striker, has been a driving force, with his tally of 11 goals propelling Almería into third place on the LaLiga SmartBank table.

Sadiq’s presence in Almería is down to the sporting project laid out by Turki Al-Sheikh, who took over the club in 2019. Almería is committed to signing some of the best emerging talents from around the globe. They currently boast the second-youngest squad in the division, yet also one of the most valuable.

To illustrate just how young the squad is, Sadiq is one of the more experienced players in the group and he just celebrated his 24th birthday earlier this month. Sadiq is one of the most prominent stars at Almería too, having completed 5m transfer from Partizan Belgrade in October last year. The price-tag has placed pressure on the Nigerian's shoulders, but he's thrived under it. 

Born in Kaduna, Nigeria, Sadiq came through the Future of Africa Football Academy and the Football College Abuja before making the move to Europe. His first destination on the continent was Italy, where he joined Spezia's youth academy before a switch to the more illustrious surrounds of AS Roma, for whom he scored on debut at the age of 18. 

A series of loans followed as he went in search of first-team minutes to Italian sides Bologna and Torino, Dutch side NAC Breda, Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers, back to Italy with Perugia, and finally Partizan Belgrade in the capital of Serbia. With so much upheaval at such a young age, it was tough for Sadiq to truly settle, but he finally found stability in Belgrade and produced an impressive tally of 23 goals and 19 assists for the Serbian giants in just 52 matches.

His talent was obvious to see, and he was quickly snapped up by Almería to bring him to LaLiga – a division which has truly embraced African talent since its inception n 1930. At Almería, he is experiencing a different footballing culture and continues to thrive in his new surroundings. As well as being the side’s top scorer, Sadiq is currently the third top scorer in the entire division and was named the LaLiga SmartBank Player of the Month for January.

He’s also shone against top-flight, bagging a brace when Almería dismantled D. Alaves – who had already beaten Real Madrid this season – 5-0 in the Copa del Rey.

“We have a lot of confidence in him,” says Almería coach José Manuel Gomes of Sadiq. “He’s a striker who disrupts opposition centre-backs, who has quality, who is very strong and who can score goals.”

His performances haven't gone unnoticed either. Ever since Sadiq shone at the 2016 Olympic Games, scoring four goals en route to securing a bronze medal for Nigeria, Europe’s top scouts have been monitoring his progress.

Sadiq has been linked with a handful of LaLiga Santander clubs of late, but he may end up playing in Spain’s top division in 2021-22 anyway if Almería keeps up their progress. Since the start of November, they’ve lost just three times – against Mallorca, Espanyol and most recently Leganes. The promotion push is on the cards. 

Sadiq’s case is just the latest Spanish football success story involving emerging African talent in 2021. Sevilla’s Moroccan forward Youssef En-Nesyri won the LaLiga Santander January Player of the Month award for January, meaning that both the reigning Players of the Months for Spain’s top two divisions are African – something unprecedented.

En-Nesyri’s Moroccan teammate Bono has been excellent in goal for the Andalusians too. Ivorian international Idrissa Doumbia has become key in SD Huesca’s midfield; Pape Diop from Senegal remains a pillar at SD Eibar.

Cameroon’s Allan Nyom brings energy and versatility to Getafe structures. And then, of course, there’s Nigerian international winger Samuel Chukwueze, who’s been a star at Villarreal for a couple of seasons now and recently became the youngest player make 100 appearances in the history of the Yellow Submarines.

Even at LaLiga SmartBank level, Almería’s promotion rivals RCD Mallorca have an African player joint top of their scoring charts in Senegalese winger Amath Ndiaye.

Ndiaye's RCD Mallorca and Sadiq's Almería will be battling for promotion over the final months of the LaLiga SmartBank season and it should make for fascinating viewing. Watch this space.

📲 You can follow Mallorca vs Almería live this weekend