Right-footed right-wingers are a bit of a dying breed in football these days. The current generation of young footballers grew up watching the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Arjen Robben cut in from their weak side and curl a shot to the far post; it’s almost become an expectation that wingers play on the opposite side of their strong foot. But in QPR’s Bright Osayi-Samuel, we are reminded more of a Premier League winger from the early 2000s whose first instinct is to cross rather than cut in towards the center.
Born in Okija, Nigeria, the 23-year-old already has over 100 league appearances for QPR under his belt. From watching just a few minutes of his highlights you can tell what he’s about as a player: purposeful dribbling, crossing, and finishing. He’s a practical winger. Like most wide players, he possesses pace and flair in abundance, but there’s something about his movement with the ball that separates him from your average winger.
His signature move, the stepover, almost always sends defenders the wrong way, clearing his path for a cross or shot towards the goal. If the defender guesses the right way, Osayi-Samuel’s superb ability on his weak foot enables him to step-over again, and again, and again. Even with his back to the goal in his own half, you know that he will be able to evade his marker and begin another blistering run towards the goal.
Another thing that separates him from your typical young winger is his rather-polished end product. From a facilitating perspective, his crosses (especially the ones played on the ground) are to die for. On numerous occasions, he has eliminated multiple defenders with his perfectly-played ground crosses. Last season he made nine assists, tied for sixth highest in the league.
His finishing is arguably more impressive. Aside from the sheer power of his shots, he’s almost mastered the near-post finish on his strong foot after coming in from the right side but is also more than capable of cutting in from the left and shooting to the far post when he plays on the left-wing. When Osayi-Samuel utilizes his pace, dribbling, and end product in one move, it’s must-watch football.
It seems that QPR’s management spent the majority of last summer fielding the slew of transfer inquiries for Eberechi Eze – perhaps neglecting the expiring contract of their (arguably) next-best attacker in Bright Osayi-Samuel, who had a season left on his deal heading into the 2020/21 season. Obviously, Bright’s performances had caught the eyes of many clubs, with Rangers, Celtic, and a host of Premier League clubs having been reported to be in the running for the Nigerian.
Entering the winter window, having failed to extend Bright’s contract, QPR had put themselves into an awkward position. Having already been restricted by a 10-year Financial Fair Play fine, the London club were faced with either: selling him, letting him agree to a pre-contract deal (and having to contract a player who is set to leave in a few months), or let him run down his contract (possibly the worst option).
It seemed that QPR’s management had dropped the ball and would let the Nigerian talent go on a free until Fenerbahçe swooped in to sign the winger on a 4.5-year deal – ending the nearly 18-month-long saga. He will be expected to live up to the high expectations that Africans have set in Turkey. From Jay-Jay Okocha to Samuel Eto’o, many African stars have made their mark on the Süper Lig – and Osayi-Samuel has the potential to have similar levels of success in the Turkish capital.
It has been quite the rise for Osayi-Samuel, who at 23 years old is set to enter his prime in one of Turkey’s most fabled clubs. Born in Nigeria, he moved with his family to Spain before emigrating to England at ten years of age, settling in Woolwich, London. He began his development at Blackpool’s academy, making his professional debut on March 7, 2015, and quickly becoming a vital performer under manager Gary Bowyer, as the Tangerines made a swift return to League One.
His performances in Lancashire caught the attention of QPR, who signed him on a three-year deal on September 1, 2017. After being used as a squad player for his first two seasons at Loftus Road, Osayi-Samuel finally broke into the starting line-up in 2019/20 following the appointment of Mark Warburton as manager, providing 6 goals and 9 assists in 40 appearances and forming a dazzling partnership with Eze in attack.
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With Osayi-Samuel rejecting several offers from QPR for a longer-term contract, the likes of Club Brugge, Rangers, and Celtic began to register interest. The Belgian side reportedly had a bid of £4.7 million accepted in August, only for Osayi-Samuel himself to reject the move. Instead, Brugge ended up signing Noa Lang on loan from Ajax, whilst the Nigerian will head east this summer for Turkey.
Obviously, all of the attention has been on the heart-warming signing of Mesut Özil to his boyhood club, but Fenerbahçe have quietly built an incredibly strong team (for non-big-five league standards), especially in the attack. On the theme of Africans, Fener’s attack has been spearheaded by two African target men in Senegalese Mame Thiam and Tanzanian Mbwana Samatta.
Thiam, formerly of Juventus, has picked up the pace after a slow start to his debut season with Fenerbahce. After failing to find the net in all ten of his Süper Lig matches in 2020 with Fener, Thiam has clearly flipped a switch for the new year, scoring four times and assisting two goals in the Süper Lig in 2021.
Tanzanian icon Mbwana Samatta has gradually adjusted to life in Turkey on loan from Aston Villa, scoring twice in his last three games – it’s likely that Fener will pull the trigger on making his transfer permanent. To top it off, Fenerbahçe coach Erol Bulut’s go-to striker off the bench is 35-year-old ex-Newcastle and Senegal goal-getter Papiss Demba Cissé. Fenerbahçe’s African influence up top was perfectly highlighted in their 3-0 win over Kayserispor on January 25th, when Thiam, Samatta, and Cissé all scored.
With the strikers firing, and the addition of Özil, one might wonder if the Istanbul club have too many attackers. The presence of Ecuadorian international Enner Valencia and ex-Roma player Diego Perotti on the wing means that Osayi-Samuel will have to fight for his starting place on either wing, but once he is able to acclimate to Turkish football, fans and neutrals alike will get to watch Özil flanked by an exciting, young, and flashy Premier League-quality winger. Warburton revealed that he believes the Nigerian is destined for the Premier League, but perhaps Osayi-Samuel can enjoy at least a few good years with this exciting Fenerbahçe side.
By: Malek Shafei / African Football HQ
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Tess Derry – PA Images