Nigeria's Moses Simon reflects on turnaround season with Nantes

Moses Simon was particularly impressive against Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain. LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

Moses Simon was not sure what to expect when he left Levante on a season-long loan to French club Nantes, but by the time the Ligue 1 season wrapped up prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Nigerian had come away with two prestigious awards.

Simon was voted Nantes' player of the season with 40% of the vote, and, a few days later, his header against Nice was voted the club's goal of the season.

An exuberant Simon told ESPN both awards were unexpected boons for him: "To be honest, I did not expect it.

"I just wanted to go there and do my job.

"I didn't even expect that goal to win it. I thought it would be the goal against PSG. But they voted that one to be the best goal.

"I don't mind though, it is my goal so it doesn't matter. I just think the goal against PSG was better."

Moses may have a point. He generated plenty of elevation to rise and direct the header for the goal against Nice, but his strike against the champions looked somewhat harder; after taking advantage of an error and a fortuitous bounce, the Nigerian ran 40 meters with the ball before rounding the keeper on the inside and firing home with his left foot.

Whatever the case, the 24-year-old has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround after a gloomy spell at Levante, the Spanish club he joined on a five-year deal from Belgian side Gent in 2018. A measly return of one goal from 19 appearances was testament to just how miserable the forward was in Spain.

"At Levante, I did not play very well due to some circumstances with the coach," he said.

"In Spain, the coach only spoke Spanish and I needed a translator.

"It was easier to play in France because I understand the language more and the communication is very good with the coach.

"I am enjoying my football now. The most important thing is to play. Not to sit on the bench. To have the freedom to play, have the freedom to speak. and to do what you know how to do best."

Nantes have the option of making Simon's deal permanent and they very well may. Would Simon prefer to go or stay?

He says: "I cannot say I don't want to go back, but it depends on the two clubs and what agreement they can come to. I don't think I have anything to prove. I just went there to do my job. My teammates were very good and they helped me settle down quickly. So we will see what happens."

For the moment, the forward is focusing on his new baby while he awaits what happens with his club situation: "I would say my baby brought me luck.

"But for now, next season is too early to say. With this coronavirus, we don't know what will happen. I don't know where my future will be next season so I will just continue to work hard and see what happens."