Many Nigerian players have made a good mark in the English Premier League in terms of goals, clinching titles and acrobatic celebrations.
Soccernet picks top 10 Nigerian players to Play in the Premier League.
1. Kanu Nwankwo (Arsenal, West Brom, Portsmouth)
One of the most decorated Nigerian players in the English Premier League, Nwankwo Kano will always be remembered for coming on from the bench to score a hattrick in the space of 15 minutes that gave Arsenal victory despite going 2-0 down against Chelsea.
Papilo, as he’s fondly regarded in the colours of the Super Eagles, was part of Gunners’ invincible team that clinched the 2003/2004 Premier League title and was one of the few players to have won the English FA Cup with different teams having won it with Arsenal and Portsmouth.
He is rated 13th in the Gunners’ all-time top 50 best players in, a list that has the likes of Marc Overmars, Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, among several other world-class stars that featured for the North-London side. He made 119 appearances and scored 37 goals.
2. Austine ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha (Bolton, Hull City)
Arguably Nigeria’s most skilful midfielder, Austine Okocha took the Premier League by storm after he left Paris Sainte Germain (PSG) in France in 1998, with his sublime skills and beautiful goals in the colours of Bolton and Hull City.
His quality was great that Bolton printed shirts with the inscription, “Jay-Jay, so good they named him twice”
Interestingly, Okocha led the team to a first cup final in nine years and his goal in his first season with the club was voted in 2008 as Bolton’s best premier league goal. Okocha played 124 league games for Bolton, scoring 14 goals.
3. Mikel Obi (Chelsea)
Another successful player with Chelsea, where he won the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, two Premier League titles, three FA Cup titles, one Football League Cup, and one FA Community Shield. Mikel Obi was the most sought-after player in Europe after his brilliant display at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup, which also featured Lionel Messi of Argentina.
Although Mikel scored just two goals in his 11 seasons with the Blues, he was Chelsea shield in the middle of the park.
4. Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton, Leicester City, Blackburn Rovers, Reading)
Aiyegbeni’s holds an enviable record in the English Premier League with his goals return. His 28 Premier League goals between his two seasons in Portsmouth, makes him, the club’s highest-ever scorer in the Premier League and was also transferred to Everton in August 2007 for a fee of £11.25 million on a five-year deal.
‘The Yak’ as football fans in England called him, is one of the two African strikers to have hit 100 goals in English football, the second being Didier Drogba.
5. Joseph Yobo (Everton)
A solid defender for the Toffees in the English Premier League, Joseph Yobo played a key role in ensuring that the team maintained its topflight status in the league and also qualified for the Champions League playoff under former manager, David Moyes.
Despite not winning any titles with Everton, Yobo was one of the most consistent players in the squad, and was one of only seven players in the entire league to play every minute of every game throughout the 2006–07 season; his teammate Joleon Lescott also being an ever-present throughout the season. He made 220 appearances for the club and scored eight goals during his time there.
6. Daniel Amokachi – (Everton)
Daniel ‘The Bull’ Amokachi starred for Everton after his exploits for Nigeria at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. He was the first player to score in the new format of the UEFA Champions League after his goal secured a 1–0 win in the opening match in the group stage against CSKA Moscow before his Everton move.
Amokachi made 43 appearances for the Toffees and scored 10 goals.
7. Celestine Babayaro (Chelsea, Newcastle United)
Celestine Babayaro held sway as Chelsea’s left-back from 1997-2004, after signing from Anderlecht and won one FA Cup, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, and one UEFA Super Cup.
Celestine played over 200 games for the London side and was a popular figure with his acrobatic celebrations with backflips. In 2005, he joined Newcastle and made an impressive display before a reoccurrence injury made him leave the club via a mutual agreement in 2007.
8. Victor Moses – (Wigan, Stoke, Liverpool, Chelsea)
Crystal Palace first discovered the Nigerian ace in the Championship before being lured out by the then Wigan coach, Roberto Martinez. His awesome performances at the English club brought him out to the interest of Roberto Di Matteo who brought the player to Chelsea where he was loaned to Liverpool and later to Stoke City before returning back to Stamford Bridge.
He won the UEFA Cup with The Blues in the 2012/2013 and was a star player for the Super Eagles of Nigeria at the 2013 Nations Cup triumph.
9. Osaze Odemwingie – (West Brom, Cardiff City, Stoke City)
The Nigerian half-caste became an instant hit when he moved from Russian club, Lokomotiv Moscow to the Baggies in 2010. During his stay at West Brom, 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 make 87 appearances in total and scored another 14 goals in the league.
However, in 2013, relations between Odemwingie and the club turned sour. He made 15 appearances but only managed to score one league goal during a short spell at Cardiff City.
10. Odion Ighalo
Odion Ighalo was part of the Watford team that won promotion to the Premier League in 2015. Instrumental in their promotion race, he would prove to be equally important in their first season in the Premier League. He won the Premier League player of the month in December 2015. He finished with a return of 15 goals in the 2015-16 season.
However, his 2016-17 season was less impressive. In 17 appearances, he only managed to score a single goal. In the January transfer window, he signed for Chinese club Changchun Yatai.