Victor Osimhen is close to moving to the Serie A to join Napoli after a prolific maiden league campaign for Lille in France.
He will be leaving behind Nantes’ Moses Simon and the Bordeaux duo of Josh Maja and Samuel Kalu, the other Nigerians currently playing in that European nation.
These youngsters are following in the footsteps of a vast number of iconic compatriots – such as Vincent Enyeama, Samson Siasia, and Taribo West – who have graced Ligue 1
Thirty-eight Nigerian footballers have now worn the colours of a Ligue 1 club, and Soccernet.ng‘s Imhons Erons highlights the most prolific of that beautiful bunch.
Bartholomew Ogbeche, 9 Goals
It is saddening that Bartholomew Ogbeche is considered a flop in France, where the one-time Super Eagles forward only netted nine times in 84 league matches. He had a more pleasant time in the Netherlands, though.
Ogbeche came to limelight at Paris Saint Germain when, aged just 17 years and 55 days, netted against Nantes to become PSG’s youngest ever goalscorer back in November 2001.
He went on to play for both Bastia and Metz before departing France in 2005 never to return after he simply couldn’t manage to stick the ball into the back of the net frequently enough.
His goal drought also extended to the national team, and after featuring in six games, including at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, without scoring a single goal, he’s not been able to add to his caps.
A big hit now in the India Super League at the age of 35, Ogbeche can take solace in the nine goals that have earned him a spot on this elite list.
Wilson Oruma, 11 Goals
One of Nigeria’s most gifted ever midfielders, Wilson Oruma, spent ten seasons in the French top-flight (the most of any Nigerian), amassing 196 matches (the second-most of his countrymen) in a hugely successful career.
A U-17 World Cup winner, Oruma was at different times on the payroll of Lens, Sochaux, Nancy, Marseille, and Guingamp.
The versatile 1996 Olympics gold medalist was a scorer of fantastic goals including his first-ever strike for Marseille against former club Sochaux.
Unsurprisingly, honours followed Oruma all over France, with the former Super Eagles man winning the Ligue 1 in 1998 with Lens, the 2004 Coupe de la Ligue in the colours of Sochaux, and the Coupe de France with Guingamp in 2009.
Oruma’s greatest triumph, however, was with Marseille in 2005, when he lifted the UEFA Intertoto Cup, one of only a handful of Nigerians to have won a continental trophy in Europe.
Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, 12 Goals
Up next is unarguably Nigeria’s most talented footballer ever, Austin Okocha.
Paris Saint Germain splashed out €12.40 million to sign Okocha from Turkish giants Fenerbahce in 1998, after a memorable World Cup in France that summer.
Four years after, the former Frankfurt magician had helped the Parisians nurture the Brazilian phenomenon Ronaldinho Gaucho, lift both the Trophée des Champions and the 2001 UEFA Intertoto Cup, and found the back of the net 12 times.
One that is still a delight to watch is Okocha’s long-range stunner on his Ligue 1 debut against Bordeaux.
Okocha enjoyed even greater success at the international level, winning the 1994 AFCON, the 1995 Afro-Asian Cup of Nations, as well as the 1996 Olympic Games gold medal.
But it is the midfield maestro’s 12 goals in 84 games that afford him a place on this all-time list.
Victor Osimhen, 13 Goals
Lille youngster Victor Osimhen comes in at 7th place after an excellent maiden campaign in France.
The former U-17 World champion shrugged off a disappointing spell in Germany with Wolfsburg to bang in 20 goals for Sporting Charleroi last term.
If there were doubts about his goalscoring ability, Osimhen put them all to bed, with his 13 Ligue 1 goals confirming that the young striker knows his way past goalkeepers.
The 21-year-old’s consistent displays also saw him named in the league’s Team of the Season ahead of established stars like Wissam Ben Yedder.
Osimhen may, however, not get the chance to add to his tally and climb higher on these ratings, with Italian side Napoli reportedly close to securing his services.
Brown Ideye, 17 Goals
Brown Ideye joined Sochaux in 2009 after excelling at Swiss side Neuchâtel Xamax.
The former West Brom striker went on to score 22 goals in 58 appearances across all competitions for Les Lionceaux, 17 of which was in the Ligue 1. That includes his composed finish for the opener and excellent assist for the third in the 4-0 demolition of Nice (below).
During his time in France, Ideye was instrumental as less-fancied Sochaux secured a Europa League spot in 2011.
He left the French league that year, though, signing for Ukrainian side Dynamo Kyiv.
Two years later, the forward prominently featured as Nigeria lifted her third continental trophy in South Africa, scoring in the 4-1 semi-final defeat of Mali.
Taye Taiwo, 17 Goals
It’s not often you find a defender in a list of top goalscorers, but Taye Taiwo is a full-back like no other.
The 2005 World Youth Championship silver medalist always had tons of attacking juice coursing through his veins, and he was never scared to unleash one of his thunderbolt shots at the opponent’s goal. His reward – a place among Nigeria’s elite in Ligue 1.
Taiwo was only 20 years old when he joined French club, Olympique de Marseille, and the left-back went on to spend seven seasons for The Phocaeans, scoring 17 times in 192 league games.
On 23 April 2011, Taiwo scored the only goal at the Stade de France against Montpellier HSC to win the 2011 Coupe de la Ligue.
The former Super Eagles star lifted the UEFA Intertoto Cup in his maiden campaign in France.
Taiwo also won the Ligue 1 title with Marseille in 2009-10 under Didier Deschamps, and the player’s blockbuster of a left foot made him an icon of the Stade Orange Vélodrome faithful.
Taiwo switched Ligue 1 for the Serie A in 2019, signing for AC Milan, but he never reached the height he once reached in France.
Ricky Owubokiri, 18 Goals
The first Nigerian to ever play in the French first division was Richard Daddy Owubokiri, who arrived in France in the summer of 1986 from the Brazilian league.
A Nigeria international, the striker played a season at Laval and then another campaign in Metz, scoring 18 times in 69 top-flight matches and helping the latter club win the Coupe de France.
Owubokiri had a successful career playing in Brazil, Portugal, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, but the two years he spent in France remain as memorable as any other anywhere else.
The Port Harcourt-born goal-getter was in the Nigerian squad to the 1982 AFCON but narrowly missed the 1994 AFCON-winning party after only netting one goal in 23 international games.
Peter Osaze Odemwingie, 23 Goals
Lille paid Belgium’s La Louviere just 650,000 euros to take Osaze Odemwingie to France in 2004 and, after only three years, sold him to Russia’s Locomotive Moscow for €10 million, making at least ten times more in profit.
It is safe to say that the former Super Eagles forward blossomed in France.
After a slow start to life in Ligue 1, Odemwingie’s double against Girondins Bordeaux and another brace versus Lyon kicked off the Nigerian’s goalscoring run from which he never looked back.
The UEFA Champions League, Ligue 1, Coupe de la Ligue, Coupe De France; every competition the former Russia youth international played for Lille, he scored.
His 23 goals in 75 league matches have earned him a top-three spot among Nigeria’s most excellent marksmen to ever feature in France.
Victor Ikpeba, 55 Goals
Monaco took a gamble on a little known Nigerian youngster, Victor Ikpeba, signed him from Belgian club RFC Liège, and a certain Arsene Wenger turned that rough diamond into the Prince of Monaco.
Ikpeba showed outstanding form in the months leading to the 1996 Olympics, scoring 13 league goals to help Monaco win the league title. That summer, he added an Olympics gold medal to his 1994 AFCON winners medal.
The following campaign, the Benin City-born star also finished as the second-top goalscorer in the UEFA Cup, and it came as no surprise when he was named the African Footballer of the Year in 1997.
By the time Ikpeba left France for Germany’s Borussia Dortmund in 1999, he had smashed in 76 goals in 217 games for Les Monégasques, 55 of which was registered in the Ligue 1.
Ikpeba would reign supreme for so long on Nigeria’s goalscoring chart in the French top-flight until one prolific Enugu-born striker rewrote the history books.
John Utaka, 59 Goals
There has been no other Nigerian as prolific as John Utaka in the Ligue 1 to date.
It took Utaka eight seasons playing for three different French sides – Lens, Rennes, and Montpellier – to notch 59 league goals in 239 games and eclipse the record previously set by the Prince of Monaco.
The Enugu-born forward impressed on the domestic scene and became a cult hero in Egypt before securing a record move to Qatar.
He then crossed over to France, where he featured for Lens and Rennes, after which he joined Portsmouth, where he lifted the FA Cup in 2008.
But there was unfinished business in France, and he returned shortly after to power an Olivier Giroud-inspired Montpellier to their first-ever league title in 2012.
None of his 59 goals could be as memorable as the brace Utaka banged in the 2-1 win over Auxerre on the last day of the Championship that helped Montpellier best PSG Io the Ligue 1 title.
Utaka left for Turkey the following year, but his goalscoring exploits in France remain steadfast, unmatched.
And it may stay unsurpassed for a long, long time still, with Osimhen, Nigeria’s live-wire forward, on his way to Italy after only one season in France.