From Victor Osimhen to Taiwo Awoniyi, from Akor Adams to Victor Boniface, more and more Nigerian strikers are showcasing their goal-scoring prowess in Europe’s top 5 leagues. The latest player to make the step up from a fringe competition to the Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1, Serie A or Bundesliga could very well be Rafiu Adekunle Durosinmi.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria on January 1, 2003, Rafiu went on to spend most of his childhood days in the country while picking up a solid interest in football. His first involvement on the semi-professional scene was when he played youth football for a Nigerian club named Box2Box Fc in 2021 before getting scouted by a club in the Czech Republic.
He joined MFK Karvina’s youth team in 2021 for an undisclosed fee, got promoted to the first team in 2022, and went on to play a total of 39 goals for the team, scoring 10 goals including one against Slavia Prague. In January 2023, Durosinmi was loaned to Viktoria Plzen where his performances were promising and later joined on a permanent deal, earning his first transfer fee (€850k). He has impressed in attack for the Czech side, racking up 13 goals and 6 assists in 34 appearances.
With the team’s lack of technical strikers despite having physical players upfront like Tomas Chory and John Mosquera, the coach preferred giving the 20-year-old constant minutes and a popular name on the team sheet, primarily playing as a Central Forward, often playing in a two-striker system. Standing 6’4, and weighing 187 lbs, that is indicative enough of being the tallest & strongest player you’ll probably meet on the pitch, which imposes a form of fear to opposition defenders.
The majority of his actions this season have been in the box and secondly in the middle third, as seen below. This means he’s a box striker as well as operating in a deeper position whether by tracking back or leading the build-up from either corners or turnovers to offer his teammates passing options. The team causally rotates from a 3-4-1-2, 4-2-3-1 formation, where he’s either playing as a lone striker or a supportive one, attacking the box with intent or competing for second balls and finding gaps for passes.
Rafiu Durosinmi is not limited to box actions only, in fact, he’s pretty mobile and likes to drift out wide, as he has a straight understanding of when to receive whether it’s in behind or close up coupled with when to make matching runs to carry the ball forward or convert. An example of his swift movements even in congested areas can be seen below.
The timings, the strength to hold play, and the speed to make movements in counterattacks often by occupying the middle third before making strides to get behind the end ball. As a center forward who’s mobile on the wings, he forms a good partnership with his team’s wingbacks in a 3 at the back formation, allowing the fullback to overlap and make forward runs to combine or pass to another teammate in the box.
Giving up on tracking back and trying to win the ball back is not an option for him, as he always wants to do everything he can to get the ball. He bends & blends his runs to avoid offsides (according to Sofascore, he averages 0.5 offsides per game). The team looks to use him as a tool for central playmaking, by resting on opposition defenders to perform lay-offs.
Rafiu Durosinmi is a right-footed striker who generates a goal-scoring threat from his actions inside the opposition box, constantly stretching defences. Providing technical security to his team’s attack, often on the lookout to collect and connect to attack if he’s not playing as a lone striker.
He scores goals in expansive forms, his one-footedness brings a few limitations, skilled in using his head, infact one could make a case that he scores more goals from headers than his other foot. The combination of all these abilities makes him a handful for defenders and adds to his box and overall threat.
His aerial play is strong, which is easy to tell from his height. His jumps stand out amongst his age group, beats his marker in the air with his leaps, and in the same breath powers enough to head the ball into the net or play his teammate through. This is a comparable trait to the likes of Osimhen and Serhou Guirassy.
When playing with either Vydra or Chory, he interchanges roles, with the former, he’s tasked with competing for long balls in the air, with the latter, he’s tasked with fighting for second balls and positioning more in behind to attack the box with intent. The image below shows his positioning between defenders, making stealthy runs into the box with his timed runs and understanding of occupying necessary space out of possession.
At 6’4, one would naturally expect his dribbling to be static or traditional, but it isn’t. He’s reliant on beating defenders from body feints and drop-offs, close control and short-distance bursts into wide areas. His 1v1s can improve, though. He relies mostly on long-distance/range carries and dribbles that way he can apply his physicality.
Adding value to his game is his unselfish approach, with 5 assists this season according to Sofascore. Strikers like Harry Kane come to mind (his passes are not at that level yet) but Rafiu still comes pivotal during attacking phases with his weighted passes, opening and closing one-two, one-touch passes – he doesn’t just end build-up plays; he starts them too. In other words, you can trust him as your lone striker or a supporting/box striker in your 2-striker system.
Aspects to Improve on
As technical and physical Rafiu Durosinmi is, there are some areas the 20-year-old can work on to reach his full potential.
–Half turns when receiving: When he’s been played through by his teammates, especially when there are large spaces behind the last defender, receiving on the half turns are pivotal as they either open up passing lanes or allow the player to run into empty and unoccupied zones. He can add this to his arsenal
-Improving his right to left run across defenses.
-Tuning his viewfinder on the turn to open up passing lanes
-Improve his through balls and get better in deeper + wide areas
-Toning down his aggression to avoid getting carded unnecessarily
– Attitude under pressure, in big or important games
– Avoid overworking his muscles to improve his general fitness
One year after making the move to Viktoria Plzen on loan, Rafiu Adekunle Durosinmi could be set for a move away from the Doosan Arena with various clubs including Wolves, Eintracht Frankfurt and Brighton being reportedly interested. A tall, physically imposing striker with an eye for goal, the Lagos native has impressed in international competition, grabbing three goals in the qualifiers to lead them past FC Drita, Gzira Utd and Tobol Kostanay to secure a spot in the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage.
He started each of their six matches as Viktoria Plzen became the only team to enjoy a perfect record in this season’s competition, scoring nine goals and conceding one and finishing ahead of Dinamo Zagreb, Astana, and Ballkani. Despite being sidelined for the past two months with a torn knee ligament, he has excelled in attack with 6 goals and 6 assists in 11 league matches for Miroslav Koubek’s side, who sit third in the Czech top-flight. At 21 years of age, the future looks bright for the Nigerian forward, and with a contract until 2026, it seems to be a matter of when, not if, he makes the move to one of Europe’s biggest leagues.
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Czech News Agency – PA Images