Sports

Meet Lukas Babalola: The Nigerian descent who is the new assistant manager at Feyenoord

The 2024/25 season promises to be an interesting one for Nigerian fans as there will not only be several top Nigerian footballers to watch in Europe’s elite leagues but also quality managers of Nigerian descent to monitor.

While the likes of Victor Osimhen, Ademola Lookman, and Victor Boniface will be performing their magic on the football pitch, others will be directing affairs from the sidelines and the boardrooms.

Former Super Eagles winger Sone Aluko has been appointed a first-team coach at Ipswich Town, while ex-international Seyi Olofinjana has been handed a talent management position at London giants Chelsea.

And then there is Lukas Andersson Babalola who will be in the Feyenoord dugout as assistant manager to Brian Priske.

Who is Lukas Babalola?

Lukas Babalola
Lukas Babalola

Born on February 9, 1997, in Denmark to parents of Nigerian descent, Babalola discovered early in life that playing football was not for him.

He was barely 17 when he joined the youth coaching team at Holbæk B&I, where he quickly demonstrated his aptitude for developing young talent.

His style and success became the talk of town and eight months later he was on his way to Köge BK U19 where he was appointed the youth coach.

Babalola spent three years in Køge during which time he was promoted to the reserve team, honing his skills and gaining valuable experience.

Danish Superliga side Superligaen club Lyngby BK had heard enough of his brilliance and in January 2018, they added him to their youth academy.

After two years, Babalola’s keen analytical mind earned him a promotion to the position of match analyst for Lyngby’s first team.

Seeking greater challenges, Babalola joined Danish giants Aalborg BK in July 2022, where he assumed a similar role, solidifying his reputation as an excellent match analyst and laying the groundwork for his next big opportunity.

Lukas Babalola
Lukas Babalola

Leaving Denmark

In July 2023, Babalola left Denmark for the first time to begin work as the Chief Analyst to head coach Brian Priske at Czech Republic champions Sparta Prague.

Priske, a former assistant manager at FC København and manager at FC Midtjylland, knew the impact of Babalola’s work in Denmark and had personally requested for the Danish-Nigerian man to join him in Prague.

Sparta Prague soon realised that Babalola’s quality was as recommended and six months later, the youngster was promoted to assistant manager.

Lukas Babalola
Lukas Babalola

The 27-year-old again played a crucial role in Sparta Prague’s remarkable double-winning season, securing both the national championship and the cup.

Feyenoord time

On the 12th of June 2024, Dutch club Feyenoord announced that it had signed Priske as the club’s new head coach.

With Arne Slot leaving Feyenoord to join Liverpool following the departure of Jurgen Klopp, Priske was identified as the perfect replacement.

Priske was clear he would not move without his trusted assistant and shortly after, Feyenoord reached an agreement for Babalola to join on July 1st as the new assistant manager.

Forty-seven-year-old Priske has not stopped singing the praises of his younger assistant.

“As a new coach, it is good to have someone in the group who knows me well,” Priske offered.

“Someone who knows what I need when it comes to structure and football. That is why I am happy that Lukas Babalola is coming with me. I worked with him for a year at Sparta Prague and he did very well. First as an analyst and later as an assistant coach. He knows a lot about the style of play.”

Lukas Babalola
Lukas Babalola

Their task at De Kuip is clear: return Feyenoord to the pinnacle of Dutch football.

16-time Eredivisie champions, Feyenoord only finished second in the Dutch top flight during the just concluded campaign, losing the title they won last year.

Priske’s primary objective will be to guide Feyenoord to reclaim the Eredivisie title and make an impressive showing in the UEFA Champions League.

And with Babalola by Priske’s side leveraging his analytical background and hands-on coaching experience, that is not mission impossible for Feyenoord.