Southampton’s fifth summer signing, Joe Aribo continues the influx of exciting young talent arriving at St Mary’s.
Born in Camberwell, south London, his football education began at non-league Staines Town, where he was the club’s Academy Player of the Year in 2014 at the age of 17.
His professional breakthrough came with Charlton Athletic, a stone’s throw from home, where he signed an initial one-year deal following a successful trial.
Making his EFL debut aged 20, Aribo was rewarded with a contract extension six days later and soon became a regular starter for the Addicks.
After missing out on promotion following defeat in the League One play-offs in 2017/18, Charlton went one better in Aribo’s final season with the club, as he scored 10 goals, including a crucial strike in the play-off semi-final against Doncaster – a tie ultimately decided on penalties, with Aribo converting his side’s fourth spot-kick.
The Wembley triumph over Sunderland would prove the last of his 97 appearances for the club, in which he contributed 17 goals in all competitions.
Despite a contract offer from Charlton and the lure of Championship football for the first time in his career, the then 22-year-old opted to sign a four-year deal with Rangers in 2019, proving an instant hit at Ibrox.
Having finished second in the league in his first season and losing the Scottish League Cup final to Celtic, Rangers’ class of 2020/21 wrote themselves into the history books with an unbeaten Scottish Premiership campaign to stop their fierce rivals landing a much-coveted tenth consecutive league title.
The next step was success in Europe, and the Glasgow giants sent their passionate supporters on an unforgettable journey to the final of last season’s Europa League, defeating Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade, Braga and RB Leipzig in the knockout rounds.
More often used in midfield, Aribo started the final as a lone striker and scored the opening goal to put Rangers in front early in the second half, but German opponents Eintracht Frankfurt, conquerors of West Ham in the semi-finals, soon equalised and eventually prevailed in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in Seville.
Three days later, Rangers raised themselves to lift the Scottish Cup, defeating Hearts 2-0 after extra time in Aribo’s final game for the club – his 57th appearance of the season.
In total he scored 26 times in 149 matches, with those goals evenly spread across his three seasons in Scotland.
On the international scene, Aribo qualifies to represent Nigeria through his family, and made his debut in 2019 against Ukraine, scoring in a 2-2 draw.
He repeated the feat on his second appearance for the Super Eagles, finding the net in another draw, this time against Brazil.
He has already racked up 20 caps in less than three years, featuring heavily in January’s Africa Cup of Nations, as Nigeria cruised through the group stage only to go out to Tunisia in the last 16.
A left-footed player, Aribo describes himself as “someone who likes to run at defenders, play key passes and get on the scoresheet” and will hope to bring those qualities to the Premier League as he finally gets a crack at England’s top tier, two weeks shy of his 26th birthday.