English football has witnessed the finest of Nigerian talents over the last three decades and there seemed to be no end in sight with Odion Ighalo recently picking up the mantle where the likes of John Fashanu dropped it.
Bolton Wanderers fans have no reservations in naming Austin Okocha has one of the club’s all time greats. John Obi Mikel remains the only Nigerian to have won the Champions League with an English team. And Joseph Yobo was so consistent and outstanding that he was made Everton’s captain, becoming the first African to skipper the Liverpool-based club.
However, one Nigerian who is currently in top form and in the news is Watford’s dangerman, Odion Ighalo. The Hornet’s striker has plunged in nine goals already in just 15 games in his debut season in the Premier League.
At that rate, he is on course to becoming one of the highest scoring Nigerians ever to play on English soil.
Soccernet Nigeria takes a look at the finest strikers from the West African nation to have taken the English game by storm, whose footsteps Ighalo is following.
5. Obafemi Martins – 28 goals
After busting into limelight as a teenage speedster at Inter Milan, ObaGoal carried his fine scoring form to Newcastle where he quickly cemented his reputation as a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ by banging in 28 league goals in 88 appearances.
Injuries hampered his form and after 3 years at St James’s Park, the Nigeria made the switch to Wolfsburg.
He later returned to the EPL with Birmingham City but couldn’t add to his league tally but made up for it with a League Cup final winning goal against Arsenal in 2011.
4. Osaze Odemwingie – 36 goals
The Nigerian half-caste became an instant fans favourite after completing his move from Russian club, Lokomotic Moscow to West Brom in 2010, scoring on his debut and a further four consecutive league games.
During his stay with the Baggies, he became the club’s all-time highest goalscorer in a season when he smashed 15 league goals in his first season for the modest side. He would go on to score a few more in the colours of Cardiff City and Stoke City, and bar injuries, he is still on course to score more.
3. Efan Ekoku – 53 goals
Born in England, the Nigerian forward was the shining light at the inception of the Premier League and his goals nearly fired unfancied Norwich City to the title in 1993.
Although, Ekoku only scored 16 league goals in all for Norwich, his four goals as Norwich beat Everton 5–1 at Goodison Park in September 1993 made him the first player to score more than three goals in a Premier League game and his performances earned him a place in Norwich City’s Hall of Fame. The rest of his 53 goals were all scored during a glittering career at Wimbledon.
2. Nwankwo Kanu – 54 goals
After his close shave with death, Papillo’s career was resurrected at Arsenal where he banged in the majority of his Premier League goals and secured legendary status. His strikes helped the Gunners win two EPL titles and several other honours.
Even more memorable was that Kanu was a member of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, the team that went a whole league season undefeated.
However, the Gunners’ fans remember King Kanu for more than just his goals and massively voted the former Eagles captain 13th in the Gunners’ all-time top 50 best players in a list that has the likes of Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, among several other world class stars that featured for the North-London side.
1. Yakubu Aiyegbeni – 96 goals
Love him or hate him, the Yak boasts an enviable African goal-scoring record in the English Premier League that only the legendary Didier Drogba has bettered.
Even more astonishing was that he maintained a free scoring streak while moving clubs. While Drogba was enjoying a stable environment at Chelsea, Aiyegbeni was having a taste of the different sides of life at Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn Rovers, all of whom he scored at least 15 goals for.
It will take Odion Ighalo 87 more Premier League goals to even match Yakubu’s record. Such is the task before the Watford man. But on his present form, nothing is impossible.
Do you know of any other player who should have made this list but didn’t? Kindly inform us by commenting below.