Simy Nwankwo: Five fast facts on Nigeria new boy

Simy Nwankwo will line up for his Nigeria debut when the Super Eagles face the Democratic Republic of Congo in a pre-World Cup friendly on Monday.

The Crotone FC forward will be hoping to impress fans, media and, most importantly, Gernot Rohr, as he looks to secure a spot in the travelling party.

Simy has impressed so far in training, letting his football do the talking, and it's now time to see if he can make a similar impact during a match.

The 26-year-old is a late bloomer at international level, but he could be coming to the boil just in time to play a key role in the Eagles' World Cup campaign.

Here are five fast facts about Simy ahead of his Nigeria bow.

1. Nwankwo is confident and articulate

Simy is a rare breed of footballer who can not only express himself comfortably, but does so with the measured confidence and calm of a man who knows exactly where he wants to be and wants to do in life.

He has no airs, affects no accent, but just talks like an everyday boy next door, with an open, honest thoughtfulness.

He's intelligent and, on the evidence so far, could be the one player most likely to launch himself into his studies or thrive as a TV pundit after his playing career.

2. Before he was Simy, he was Kanu

The forward's frame drew inevitable parallels to the Nigeria great.

At 1.98m, Simy is just slightly taller than the 1.97m Nwankwo Kanu, and the comparisons were also fuelled by their similar names.

Friends and teammates used to call him Kanu after the former Arsenal striker, and it was a name he gladly embraced.

It was not until he moved to Europe that the nickname changed.

"My manager who took me to Portugal had difficulty pronouncing my middle name Tochukwu, so he just called me Simy and it has been like that since," Nwankwo told KweséESPN.

Quite why the coach didn't opt for 'Simeon' remains to be seen.

3. The hitman was forged during tough experiences

In his seven-odd years in Europe, Simy has scored 55 goals from 188 league appearances.

That is an average of a goal every 3.4 games, but there was one season when he failed to register a single goal.

That was his first year in the Portuguese top flight, when he joined Gil Vicente from Portimonense SC.

He didn't find the net at all in 15 appearances, but the striker insists that it was the most important season of his career.

"That is the only season I didn't score a single goal but I can say with all honesty that it was one of my most important years," he added.

"Going through that experience of not playing much, scoring zero goals, I learnt a lot about myself. It taught me so much, especially about my mental strength, and I think that is what prepared me for the latter years.

"Now I can control my emotions and be strong even when things aren't going so well," he continued. "That year was very important to me."

The very next season, Simy made 30 league appearances and scored nine goals, adding two in the cup for good measure.

Sadly, the goals were not enough to save the club from relegation, but there was no slowing Simy down the next season, as he plundered 20 goals for his highest return and secured a move to Serie A.

4. Family man, father figure

Simy is the eldest of three kids. The other two are twins, and both have just graduated; his sister as a nurse and his brother as a physiotherapist.

Sadly, neither of them has been able to come and visit him in Europe as yet.

"They have been so busy with school that they have not had time to come visit," Simy continued.

"They are preparing their own future, and holidays I come home, but I love them too much and I am very proud of them."

As the elder sibling, Simy says he is the second daddy of the house.

"After my dad, I am the head of the house," he joked, "so I am used to taking responsibility."

5. His 'best goal' wasn't scored on the pitch

For a man who has scored 55 career goals, it was surprisingly pretty easy for Simy to pick his best...and it wasn't among the 55!

"My wife is the best goal I ever scored," Simy added. "I know I have scored a few, but she is the best.

"In everybody, there is a need to find someone who completes your puzzle and she completes mine."

The pair met through a mutual friend, and Simy says he took his time and prayed over the decision to get married.

"I am Catholic and so is she," he concluded. "So it was like a match made in heaven for us."