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Europa League final: Battle of brothers as Lookman’s Atalanta face Boniface, Tella’s Leverkusen

 

THREE Super Eagles of Nigeria stars are expected to be involved at some point tonight in the UEFA Europa League final in Dublin, Ireland when Atalanta take on Bayer Leverkusen.

While Ademola Lookman will represent Atalanta, he will be up against his ‘brothers’ Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella of Bayer Leverkusen.

Interestingly, all three players have had a good season, with Boniface especially standing out despite a long spell on the sidelines due to an adductor injury.

The 23-year-old striker joined Leverkusen from Union St Gilloise of Belgium in July and took to the German Bundesliga like he had played there all his life.

Boniface not only scored seven goals in his first seven matches for Xabi Alonso’s side, the Nigeria international was named Bundesliga Rookie of the Year a record four times.

Even with his absence from January to March, which led to him missing 11 Bundesliga games, Boniface still finished the campaign with impressive numbers, reaching double figures in both goals and assists.

Overall, Boniface scored 21 goals and made 10 assists in 33 appearances. In the Europa League, he has registered five goals and one assist in seven games despite not playing in the semi-finals as he works his way back to full fitness.

Tella might not have Boniface’s numbers, but the England-born Nigeria international has also been important in Bayer Leverkusen’s record-breaking unbeaten campaign.

The 24-year-old winger is not a regular starter for the Bundesliga champions but has often made an impact off the bench.

Tella has made 37 appearances (17 starts) this season for Leverkusen after joining them from Southampton in August for €23m, scoring six goals and making five assists.

On his part, Lookman has been pivotal in Atalanta’s fine campaign, in which they are on course to finishing fifth in Serie A, which secures a UEFA Champions League spot, and reached the Coppa Italia and Europa League finals.

The AFCON 2023 Africa Cup of Nations hero has contributed 12 goals and eight assists in 42 appearances this season in Atalanta’s chase for glory.

Lookman’s best performance this season was in the Europa League semi-final second leg against Marseille in Bergamo when he scored a goal and assisted another as Atalanta won 3-0 to reach the final 4-1 on aggregate.

Tonight in Dublin, Nigeria’s interests will be fully represented in the Europa League final, with Super Eagles new head coach Finidi George expected to be monitoring his three stars on the big stage as he prepares for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

 

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