From selling groundnut on the streets of Lagos to being the best ball winner in the English Premier League, the story of Wilfred Onyinye Ndidi is an inspiration for up and coming footballers. Ndidi was born in Lagos, South West Nigeria on December 16, 1996. His father was a soldier while his mother was a trader and he grew up in the Military Cantonment, Ikeja,0 Lagos.
To understand Ndidi’s rise to prominence, one will have to go back to his time in school, he was always passionate about football which eventually led to great things for him. Ndidi shared his experience of selling and cleaning cars on the street just to get life’s basic amenities.
He said, “I would go round selling different types of foods, like peppers, tomatoes, and groundnuts (peanuts). I was actually known for selling groundnuts and sometimes they would call me Groundnut Boy.
“After I would finish selling I would go to do a quick one for myself, like wiping the glass of cars and if I could see I wasn’t making money quickly I would go and buy pure water and sell that.
Ndidi was a huge talent and was scouted to the national U-17 team under Emmanuel Amuneke. After playing an integral part in the qualification process, Ndidi was ruled out of participating at the 2013 African U-17 Championship due to an MRI controversy which disqualified him and some other players as their test results claimed they were over the minimum required age.
Ndidi’s expulsion from the Golden Eaglets at the African U-17 Championship meant he was also ruled out of their team to the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup held in the United Arab Emirates which Nigeria emerged champions.
His next outing with Nigeria will be at U-20 level with the Flying Eagles to the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup at just age 16 as they crashed out in the second round against Uruguay. Ndidi will return with the Flying Eagles to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup but was unable to progress beyond the second round.
After his exploits at U-20 level, Ndidi missed out on the U-23 team to the football event at the Summer Olympics in Brazil. He went on to form a formidable partnership with Super Eagles captain, Mikel Obi in the qualification series for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and featured in all three group games at the tournament in Russia. Ndidi is now an integral part of Gernot Rohr’s team but is yet to score for the Super Eagles in 24 appearances.
His path to stardom on the international scene seemed to be in tatters after been dropped from competing at the 2013 African U-17 Championship but his performance in the qualification series earned him recognition among scouts and a move to Belgium with Genk in 2015.
Brought in by Genk for just £78,000, they decided to cash in on him for a fee worth £ 15m after just a season and a half after his impressive ball-winning abilities were noticed by Leicester City.
The deal to bring Ndidi to the King Power Stadium was after they let go of French dynamo, N’golo Kante. Now in his third season in England, Ndidi has established himself as one of the best ball winning midfielders in the premier league topping the “tackles” stats for two consecutive seasons.
Still only 22-year-old, Ndidi has a dominating frame which enables him to control the middle of the park with aggressiveness. His only flaw is making creative plays when he recovers the ball but has shown signs of improvement under new Leicester manager, Brendan Rodgers. Ndidi is a willing runner as his work rate suggests and packs a bullet in his right foot often contributing goals from his deep position in the middle of the park.
Brought in to replace Kante, with experience and proper development, Ndidi looks like he can go on to emulate the style of former Arsenal great Patrick Vieira.