2004 African Cup of Nations bronze medalist John Utaka believes it is a difficult task picking one of the numerous footballers that are playing or has played for the West African nation as the best.
The three-time African champions have, over the years, been blessed with a truckload of wonderful players who won trophies for club, country, or both, that picking one individual as the greatest of all time becomes near impossible, says former Portsmouth forward Utaka.
When Nigeria first lifted the AFCON trophy in 1980, she was inspired by the brilliance of Segun Odegbami, and Christian Chukwu – two players who are still considered greats of the game in the country.
Rashidi Yekini is unarguably the greatest ever striker to wear the green-and-white colours, with his 37 goals in 57 games still unmatched decades after his retirement.
Nwankwo Kanu and Mikel Obi are two of Nigeria’s most decorated stars, staking their claim to greatness by winning several domestic and continental titles in Europe.
Austin Okocha may never have won the African Player of the Year award like former Barcelona winger Emmanuel Amuneke. Still, there’s arguably no other Nigerian player as talented or skilful as the Bolton Wanderers icon.
Picking one of these Nigerian heroes as the best of them all, however, is an assignment Utaka chooses not to embark on.
“In Egypt, when I enter a taxi, they always mentioned about four or five of Nigerian players to be the greatest. They will say Amunike because he played in Zamalek in Egypt,” the former Lens star told Brila.
“Anytime they see me, they will ask if I’m from Nigeria, I will say yes, and then they will talk about him at times they will even call me Amunike, that shows that he did a great job during his days there in Egypt.
“Some other times in France, they mention Yekini, Amokachi, Kanu, and Okocha; and if you look at those names – It is difficult to pick out one to be named greatest ever.
“I know where to place Kanu for example based on his qualities, I also know how to rate Okocha based on his qualities and as well, Rashidi Yekini because of his goalscoring prowess,
“However, picking one of these guys as the greatest ever is not a possibility, but collectively – We can pick a set or generation as the greatest.”
Utaka played 44 games for Nigeria, scoring six goals in an international career that spanned more than a decade.