The English top-flight has been home to some of Nigeria’s most elegant attackers, with Manchester United’s Odion Ighalo being the latest arrival – for his second spell.
From Austin Okocha’s wonder goal for Bolton Wanderers against Aston Villa to Arsenal’s Nwankwo Kanu’s hat trick masterclass versus Chelsea, the Premier League has enjoyed a healthy dose of Nigerian goal-scoring wizardry.
As we await the return of the world’s most glamorous football league and Ighalo’s first league goal for the Red Devils, Soccernet Nigeria x-rays the country’s ten most prolific goal scorers to ever feature in the competition.
10. Odion Ighalo – 17 goals
Ighalo’s haul for Watford just shaved the iconic Jay-Jay Okocha (14 goals) off this elite top ten list.
The 30-year-old’s surprise move to United in January has provided him with another chance to gain on the other heroes on this roll call.
And after netting four times in eight cup appearances for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side before the coronavirus-induced break, Ighalo would be confident of adding to his 17 goals when the league campaign resumes.
9. Kelechi Iheanacho – 19
He may just be 23, but Iheanacho has already established himself as one of Nigeria’s sweetest left footers in the English top flight.
It has taken the former Manchester City striker 109 games in two clubs to score 19 goals, but he is sure to bang in more in the coming seasons.
Especially if he becomes Leicester City’s top marksman or moves to another Premier League club that could guarantee him more playing time.
8. Victor Moses – 20
A kid prodigy when coming through the ranks at Crystal Palace, Victor Moses was already a top performer for Wigan before Chelsea coughed out the dough to take him to Stamford Bridge.
Yet, it took a few loan spells at Liverpool, Stoke City, West Ham, and a title-winning campaign at his parent club before the former Super Eagles talisman could amass his 20 league goals.
Now 30 and currently on loan at Inter Milan, a return to England for one final swan song may still be on the cards for the tricky wing-back to push up his numbers.
7. Victor Anichebe – 27
Much was expected from Anichebe when he made his breakthrough at Everton, but he never quite rose to the tag of the ‘new Yakubu Aiyegbeni’.
Big, strong and a handful in the penalty box, Anichebe was able to squeeze out 27 league goals during his time with the Toffees, and also at West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland.
Still only 30 years old, the former Nigeria international is currently without a club. Unless he pulls an Ighalo-to-United move, there’s no more chance of him adding to his tally.
6. Obafemi Martins – 28
Explosive, quick, and with a fiery left foot that packed a punch, Martins was for a while the Super Eagles ‘weapon of mass destruction’.
Martins would have ranked higher on this list if he had started his career in England and not Italy.
But once he arrived from Internazionale, he quickly confirmed his high ratings with spectacular goals now and then.
And after spending only four years and making 92 appearances at both Newcastle United and Birmingham, Martins chalked up 28 goals to rise to sixth on this top goalscorers’ list.
5. Peter Odemwingie – 37
Earlier in his career, it was not precisely clear whether Osaze was a winger or a striker, but by the time he arrived in England, the uncertainties had all disappeared.
Not remarkably blessed with great pace, Odemwiengie had the proper technique and struck the ball as good as anyone else.
37 strikes in 127 matches for the trio of West Brom, Cardiff City, and Stoke sealed his place on this list and among the all-time greats.
4. Shola Ameobi – 43
Born in Zaria, Ameobi spent a considerable chunk of his career at Newcastle, making 397 official appearances and scoring 79 goals.
Forty-three of those goals were netted in the Premier League, where he acquired the reputation of being a super-sub – a goalscoring impact from the bench.
Ameobi only played ten times for the Super Eagles – including at the 2014 FIFA World Cup – scoring two goals. He had, however, proven his worth as a Nigerian Premier League icon.
3. Efan Ekoku – 53
Six goals in 20 matches for Nigeria may not seem all that impressive, but 53 league goals in 158 Premier League matches pays the right tribute to one of the country’s finest early stars in the English top flight.
Featuring notably for Norwich and Wimbledon, Ekoku’s robust style, deceitful pace, and long leap caused nightmares for Premier League defenders in the 90s.
And had the legendary Rashidi Yekini not been quite so untouchable for the Super Eagles, more would have been seen of Ekoku in the green and white jersey.
2. Nwankwo Kanu – 54
One of Africa’s most decorated players of all time, Nwankwo Kanu was a class apart from his equals since his teen years, and the gangly genius did not slow down till he retired in 2012.
The former Ajax striker spent five years of his time in England at Arsenal with whom he won two league titles, the last of which was as an Invincible.
Further spells with West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth saw him amassed a total of 273 league appearances, scoring 54 goals.
That incredible goal record is, however, only good enough to sit the legend in second place on this all-time list.
1. Yakubu Aiyegbeni – 95
Nigeria’s greatest ever striker the Premier League has seen is the prolific Benin City-born marksman – Yakubu Aiyegbeni.
While Ekoku bullied the English top division in the 90s, the Yak terrorized it in the 2000s. Never lacking in suitors, Yakubu played for the likes of Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton, Leicester City, and Blackburn Rovers.
By the time his work in the EPL was done, and he left for the Chinese Super League, Aiyegbeni had smashed home a superb 95 goals in 252 outings.
Didier Drogba (104) and Emmanuel Adebayor (97) are the only Africans to have scored more in the Premier League, confirming Yakubu’s place among the continent’s best strikers.