The UEFA Champions League, the biggest club competition in the world, returns this midweek with Nigeria’s Mikel Obi set to continue his record-breaking appearance with former champions Chelsea FC. The Blues take on PSG in a repeat of last season’s quarterfinal tie. Other Nigerians still in the thick of the hunt for European glory include Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City among others.
SoccerNet Nigeria’s Imhons Sunny highlights the biggest Nigerian stories and facts in Europe’s premier club competitions.
#1. Kanu Nwankwo’s 60 appearances while wearing the jerseys of Ajax and Arsenal are the most by any Nigerian player in the Champions League. His closest threat however is Chelsea’s John Mikel Obi who needs five more games to better the former Inter Milan striker’s tally. All of Mikel’s 56 appearances have been for the London giants.
#2. In a competition that has seen many Nigerian attackers like Tijani Babangida and Shola Ameobi come and go, Obafemi Martins remains Nigeria’s top goal-getter in the UEFA Champions League with 10 goals. The trio of Julius Aghahowa, Victor Ikpeba and Yakubu Aiyegbeni are next with 7 goals but are all retired. However, the active duo of Ahmed Musa (6 goals) and Brown Ideye (5 goals) still have realistic chances of outscoring Obafemi Martins.
#3. Stephen Keshi is the first Nigerian player to play in a major UEFA club competition. The former Super Eagles captain was in the Anderlecht team that lost 0-2 to Sampdoria in the 1990 European Cup Winners’ Cu.
#4. Keshi may be the first to take a European final bow, it was however the duo of Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu who were the first Nigerians to win a European club competition. The former Nigerian legends were part of the Ajax dream team that lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy in 1995 after defeating AC Milan 1-0.
#5. Only two Nigerians have ever won the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League: Taribo West and Chidi Odiah.
Taribo West’s Inter Milan ran out 3-0 winners over Lazio in the UEFA Cup final in 1998. Chidi Odiah also played a prominent part in CSKA Moscow’s 3-1 triumph over Sporting CP in the 2005 final of the UEFA Europa League.
#6. The last Nigerian to win the UEFA Champions League is John Obi Mikel, who helped Chelsea overcome Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties after full time scores stood at 1-1 in the 2012 final.
#7. Nigeria’s Daniel Amokachi scored the first ever champions league goal after his goal secured a 1–0 win for Club Brugge in the opening match in the group stage against CSKA Moscow. It was the first match played in the competition after it was renamed from the European Cup to the UEFA Champions League.
#8. Vincent Enyeama is one of only three goalkeepers to have scored in the Champions League. The retired Super Eagles skipper achieved the feat for Hapoel Tel Aviv when he scored a penalty on 29 September 2010, playing against Lyon.
#9. The youngest player to play in the tournament is Anderlecht’s Celestine Babayaro, against Steaua București on 23 November 1994, aged 16 years and 87 days. He was sent off in the 37th minute.
#10. Obafemi Martins (23 goals), Shola Ameobi (15) and Victor Ikpeba (15) are the three highest scoring Nigerians in all UEFA club competitions. Only Ameobi achieved the feat with one club (Newcastle). It took Martins 5 clubs – Inter Milan, Newcastle, Wolfsburg, Rubin and Levante – and Ikpeba 3 clubs – Liege, Monaco and Dortmund – to complete their scoring records.