Moses Simon, Nantes

ONE TO WATCH: Moses Simon

ONE TO WATCH: Moses Simon

Publish on 02/17 at 11:14


Moses Simon will be one of the men to look out for when FC Nantes play host to runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain this weekend. gives you the lowdown on the 26-year-old Nigerian international winger with the spectacular goal celebration.

Ludovic Blas and Randal Kolo Muani tend to focus most of the attention in Antoine Kombouaré’s team having scored a combined 20 goals in all competitions this season. Yet completing the attack for a Nantes side who sit in mid-table and are within striking distance of the European places is Simon, who offers pace and a goal threat on the left wing.

Last weekend it was his goal that secured a 1-0 win over Stade de Reims and now he and his teammates are aiming to spring a surprise against PSG, just a few days after the capital club defeated Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. Simon scored when Nantes won 2-1 in Paris last season.

Back story:

Moses Simon was born on July 12, 1995 in the central Nigerian city of Jos, also home to fellow Super Eagles stars Mikel John Obi and Ahmed Musa. Simon pursued a career in football despite the scepticism of his father, who wanted his son to follow him into the military.

A product of the GBS Academy, Simon saw a move to Dutch giants Ajax fall through before he got his chance in Europe when he joined the Slovakian side AS Trenčin in January 2014. He was still just 18 at the time. Despite the obvious culture shock of moving from central Nigeria to central Europe in winter, Simon settled quickly in his new surroundings and scored 17 goals in 38 games in 12 months for Trenčin before moving to the Belgian club Gent in January 2015.

In his second match for his new club he was sent off within a minute of coming on as a second-half substitute in a Belgian Cup tie, but despite that setback Simon again wasted little time in making a positive impression. Playing in a team featuring other future Ligue 1 stars like Matz Sels and Thomas Foket, Simon scored seven goals in his first half-season at Gent as they won the Belgian title.

Moses Simon, Nantes

In the following campaign Simon helped Gent reach the last 16 of the Champions League and he remained with the Buffalos until 2018 when the opportunity arose to move to La Liga with Levante. He spent a season at the Valencia-based club before joining Nantes, initially on loan, in 2019. The deal became permanent in 2020 for a reported fee of around €5 million and Simon has gone on to become one the Canaries’ most exciting players, with 14 Ligue 1 goals so far in his two and a half seasons at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

Style of play:

Standing just 1.68m tall, what the diminutive Simon lacks in physical presence he makes up for in pace, dynamism and creativity. He is versatile, capable of playing in a variety of positions across the attack, but his favoured zone is on the left flank, from where he can come inside onto his right foot and score goals like his wonder strike to beat RC Lens in December, a match in which Nantes came from behind to win 3-2. His acrobatic goal celebrations are worth the entrance fee alone.

Current campaign:

Simon is usually one of the first names on the teamsheet for Nantes coach Kombouaré. Les Canaris missed him in January when he was at the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria, sitting out five games for his club including two in the Coupe de France. Scorer of six league goals last season, he has so far found the net three times in the current campaign, one in a 3-1 defeat at Stade de Reims followed by the stunning late winner against Lens and the deflected free-kick that gave Nantes the points at home to Reims last weekend.

What you may not know:

Simon was just 18 when he moved to Europe but he could have arrived on the continent sooner. In July 2013 he had trials with Ajax, scoring within three minutes of coming on in a friendly against De Graafschap in a team also featuring the likes of Daley Blind and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson, the Icelandic striker who also later played for Nantes. A permanent move did not happen and he was forced to return to Nigeria before getting his chance at Trenčin. “It was because of money that he didn’t sign for Ajax. There were agents involved who were asking for too much,” his adviser William D’Avila told L’Equipe in 2020.

International career:

Simon was still a teenager when he made his Super Eagles debut in 2015. He missed out on a place in their squad at the 2018 World Cup because of an injury but he helped Nigeria finish third at the Africa Cup of Nations the following year and he was again involved at the AFCON at the start of this year. Simon played in every game as Augustine Eguavoen’s team reached the last 16 in Cameroon only to lose to Tunisia. He scored in a 3-1 win over Sudan in the group stage.

"With the previous coach, I played as a wing-back, left-back, and of course I am grateful for that because he gave me the opportunity to show myself. With the current coach, he gave me the freedom to attack - just go do your thing and defend less,” Simon told Nigerian media of playing under Eguavoen.

What he said:

“My Dad loves football but he didn’t want me to play. He wanted me to be in the military like him.”

In an interview with AFP about being the son of a soldier

What they said:

“He was a phenomenon.”

Reims defender Thomas Foket to L’Equipe on playing alongside Simon at Gent

“He has enormous talent and extraordinary potential. When I come to the Beaujoure it is to see players like him”

Nantes great Japhet N’Doram to RFI

“He is like a rocket on the wing.”

Nantes coach Antoine Kombouaré

>> PLAYER PROFILE: Moses Simon

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