The Super Eagles are unquestionably one of the greatest African nations when it comes to football, both America and European. In the NFL, they have Nelson Agholor as their best ambassador, as the wide receiver contributed to subvert the football betting odds as the Philly Eagles beat the Patriots heroically in 2017. In European football, or soccer, there are also plenty examples of great athletes who have graced the game.
Here we focus our attention on the latter and look at the five biggest players to have come out of Nigeria.
5 – SUNDAY OLISEH
It’s true that Oliseh won both the African Cup of Nations and Olympic gold with Nigeria but that’s not necessarily why he’s on our list – although it helps. In the modern game it’s widely expected that your holding midfielder not only breaks up play but is the catalyst for creating things going forwards too.
That wasn’t the case back in the early nineties but it’s exactly what Oliseh did. His ability to win the ball and effectively recycle possession won him contracts with some of Europe’s biggest clubs including Ajax and Juventus as well as 63 international call ups – and a place on our list.
4 – RASHIDI YEKINI
It would be criminal not to feature Nigeria’s late great record goal scorer; Yekini netted an impressive 37 goals in 58 matches but he was so much more than a ‘fox in the box’. Yekini, spent most of his career playing club football in Africa and he had pace and tricks to leave defenders looking foolish and the ability to make the net bulge.
This is exactly what he did at USA 1994 when netting the country’s first ever World Cup goal. He’s a man guaranteed a place in Nigeria’s footballing history.
3 – JOSEPH YOBO
There has to be a place for the nations most capped player. Yobo was predominantly a calming influence on the back four but was capable of stepping into the midfield such was his versatility. The ex-Everton man made 101 appearances for the Super Eagles featuring in three World Cups and six AFCON tournaments including 2013 where he lifted the trophy.
He was a talented defender, but he brought much more to the team than that with his leadership not to be underrated. A good footballer and an even better man.
2 – JAY-JAY OKOCHA
People who think Sam Allardyce is a manager who focusses on dull, negative football should go and watch some clips of Okocha – a player the ex-England manager bought to the UK. Okocha was quick without the ball and almost quicker on it with his dazzling dribbling skills often leaving defenders mesmerised.
Unlike many, the man had an end product too; not only was his strike in the 1993 Bundesliga campaign – against none other than Oliver Kahn – voted goal of the year, he also top scored in the 2004 AFCON and scooped the best player award too. So good, they named him twice.
1 – NWANKWO KANU
Very few can boast the array of trophies that Kanu won over the years. He started off with Iwuanyanwu Nationale before heading into Europe with Ajax, Inter, Arsenal, West Brom and finally Portsmouth and won major silverware with every club bar the Baggies.
His trophy haul reads as five league titles – including the unbeaten season at Arsenal in 2004 – three domestic cups, a UEFA Cup and a Champions League.
On top of that he scooped the award for African Player of the Year on two occasions and was part of the Olympic team that won gold in 1996.
Despite the honours list it’s his style of play and the sheer love of the game for what he’ll be remembered.
Of course, there were a lot of options to narrow down to establish our top five and whilst we believe our list is the winning formula, do you agree?