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10 Best Nigerian Football Players of All Time

At the recent world cup tournaments, African teams such as Senegal, Ivory Coast and Ghana, have made impressions but is it needful to note that the Nigerian National team, Super Eagles, led the way and hopes are high that the glory that the then Nigerian national team had will be seen again and much more.

The 10 best Nigerian players of all time have helped Nigeria in lifting the Africa Cup of Nations on three occasions and have contributed to Nigeria’s becoming one of the African teams to reckon with. This rating is done according to the contribution of the players to the sport and their achievement with the Nigerian national team while playing for the nation.  

In ascending order, though arguable, sports24.com.ng brings to you, the top 10 Nigerian footballers of all time which include:

10. Joseph Yobo

9. John Obi Mikel

8. Vincent Enyeama

7. Sunday Oliseh

6. Stephen Keshi

5. Taribo West

4. Uche Okechukwu

3. Rashidi Yekini

2. Jay-Jay Okocha

1. Nwankwo Kanu

Joseph Yobo

Name in home country: Joseph Michael Yobo

Date of birth: Sep 6, 1980

Place of birth: Kano Nigeria

Age: 40

Height: 1,88 m

Citizenship: Nigeria

Position: Defender – Centre-Back

Foot: right

Current club: Retired

Joseph Yobo is among the 10 best Nigerian players of all time and started gaining recognition from his outstanding performance for Nigeria in playing with the under-20 team. In two years’ time from then, he progressed to the national team side. 

Yobo alongside Vincent Enyeama are the two joint-most capped footballers ever for Nigeria with 101 appearances each for the national team. Yobo played Nigeria at 3 World Cups and 6 AFCONs, captaining the Super Eagles to the 2013 success in South Africa. 

Internationally, he played for Goodison Park, where he spent 10 years and Everton.

John Obi Mikel

Name in home country: John Michael Nchekwube Obinna

Date of birth: Apr 22, 1987

Place of birth: Jos Nigeria

Age: 33

Height: 1,88 m

Citizenship: Nigeria

Position: Midfielder – Defensive Midfield

Foot: right

Current club: Stoke City FC

This is one of the names you had high hopes on seeing in this rundown, right? You were just very right with that high expectations. Th player, John Obi Mikel played for Nigeria at the 2005 World Youth Championship in the Netherlands and helped Nigeria to finish as runner up. Due to his tactical displays at the Championship, he was a runner up to Lionel Messi as the second-best footballer of the competition. He played an influential role in the team that saw Nigeria through to becoming the 2013 AFCON champions, captained Nigeria to a bronze award at the 2016 Olympic Matches and dominated silver in 2008. 

He retired after the 2019 AFCON and played a total of 89 games for the Super Eagles

Internationally, he played with the Chelsea side that crowned English soccer while playing for the Blues and won all the significant titles with them including the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, and Premier League.

Vincent Enyeama

Date of birth: Aug 29, 1982

Place of birth: Kaduna Nigeria

Age: 38

Height: 1,82 m

Citizenship: Nigeria

Position: Goalkeeper

Foot: left

Current club: Without Club

Vincent Enyeama was the best goalkeeper of the Enyimba team that won the CAF Champions League trophies in 2003 and 2004 respectively. This milestone afforded him the privilege to play for teams like Lille, Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Hapoel Tel Aviv. 

He made his first national team appearance at the 2002 World cup against the English team, England, and performed tremendously against the side that had great players like Emile Heskey, David Beckham, and Michael Owen. 

He made a total number of 101 appearances for the Nigerian national team, played with the set of players that won 2013 AFCON and was named into the team of the competition.

Indeed, Vincent Enyeama is among the 10 best Nigerian players of all time, right?

Sunday Oliseh

Name in home country: Sunday Ogochukwu Oliseh

Date of birth: Sep 14, 1974

Place of birth: Abavo Nigeria

Age: 46

Height: 1,83 m

Citizenship: Nigeria

Duration: 1993-2002

Caps: 63

Goals: 2

Position: Midfielder – Defensive Midfield

Foot: right

Current club: Retired

The defensive midfielder, Sunday Oliseh didn’t just make remarkable achievements with his country’s national team as he played internationally for some prestigious clubs like Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, and Juventus, helping the teams end in the top place at significant tournaments, including the UEFA Cup, Bundesliga, and Eredivisie.

Internationally, Oliseh was a part of the team that saw the Nigerian through to winning the Olympic Gold in Atlanta 1996, just as the Nations Cup in 1994. This and many more makes Sunday Oliseh rightly positioned to be recogmised as one of the 10 best Nigerian players of all time.

He played 53 times for Nigeria, netted two goals and was also the team’s skipper back then.

Stephen Keshi

Name in home country: Stephen Okechukwu Keshi

Date of birth: Jan 23, 1962

Place of birth: Lagos Nigeria

Date of death: 08.06.2016 (54)

Height: 1.85 m

Citizenship: Nigeria

Position: Defender – Centre-Back

Duration: 1981-1995

Caps: 64

Goals: 9

Foot: right

Current club: Retired

Stephen Keshi made a remarkable contribution to football sport in Nigeria by leading the Super Eagles to lifting the African Nations Cup (AFCON). This achievement of his is following in the strides of his coach Christian Chukwu who coached the Nigeria national tea, that lifted same trophy 14 years before Stephen Keshi’s led team did. Keshi happens to be a part of the 1980 Nigerian national team squad that lifted the AFCON 1980

Stephen Keshi played as a center back wing and was nicknamed The Big Boss a direct result of his authority and leadership capacities in the game of football.

Keshi won the African Nations Cup as skipper and head coach and managed the Nigeria team to the second round of the 2014 World Cup after sixteen years of their not making it to that stage since 1998.

Tragically, he lost his life to the cold hands of death through in 2016 at 54 years of age due to a heart attack.

Taribo West

Date of birth: Mar 26, 1974

Place of birth: Lagos Nigeria

Age: 46

Height: 1.86 m

Citizenship: Nigeria

Duration: 1994-2002

Caps: 41

Goals: None

Position: Defender – Left-Back

Foot: right

Current club: Retired

Popularly known as West, he is famous for his numerous crazy hairstyles and was a part of the team that won gold for Nigeria in Atalanta 1996. He also played for Nigeria at the World Cups in 1998 and 2002. Having a club – Taribo West FC- named after his name is a proof of the effect of his contribution to the Nigerian football.

He also played for the following clubs: France, Auxerre, AC Milan, Internazionale and Derby County.

Uche Okechukwu

Full name: Uche Alozie Okechukwu Santos Emanuel

Date of birth: Sep 27, 1967

Place of birth: Lagos Nigeria

Age: 53

Height: 1,87 m

Citizenship: Nigeria

Position: Defender – Centre-Back

Duration: 1990-2002,

Caps: 46

Goals: 2

Foot: right

Current club: Retired

Uche Okechukwu took over the captaincy of Nigerian national team side from Keshi in the wake of his retirement.

Just as is the case with other players in this countdown, Okechukwu won a gold medal in 1996 and was additionally selected for the squad that lifted the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations

His legendary in the sport didn’t just stop with his country team, Nigeria as he spent most part of his football career in Turkey with Fenerbahce and supported the club to win the Turkish League two different times in 1996 and 2001.

Rashidi Yekini

Name in home country: Rashidi Yekini

Date of birth: Oct 23, 1963

Place of birth: Kaduna, Nigeria

Date of death: 04.05.2012 (48)

Height: 1,90 m

Citizenship: Nigeria

Duration: 1984-1998

Caps: 58

Goals: 37

Position: Forward – Centre-Forward

Foot: right

Current club: Retired

While playing for the Nigerian national team, Rashidi Yekini pulled a stunt by becoming the greatest goal scorer throughout the entire existence of the Nigerian National team. 

Though late, his record-breaking football career still speaks as due to his displays with Setubal in 1993, he emerged as the only Nigerian to be named African player of the year, and in furtherance of his contribution to the success of the Nigerian national team, he supported the nation to meet all requirements for World Cup appearance in 1994.  This was the very first World Cup that Nigeria qualified for. for the first time and he scored the first goal Nigeria in a World cup in that very tournament.

He played a total of 58 matches for Nigeria and scored 37 goals. He also the golden boot lifter and the greatest player of the competition for 1994 Africa Cup of Nations. 

Jay Jay Okocha

Name in home country: Augustine Azuka Okocha

Date of birth: Aug 14, 1973

Place of birth: Enugu Nigeria

Age: 46

Height:  1.73 m

Citizenship: Nigeria

Duration: 1993-2006,

Caps: 75

Goals: 14

Position: Midfielder – Attacking Midfield

Foot: right

Current club: Retired

Throughout the history of African football, no player’s dribbling skills has been worthy of comparison to that of the then attacking midfielder. Jay Jay was amazingly skilled at breaking through the defence walls of their opponent. This is one of the proofs that he merits being one of the 10 best Nigerian players of all time.

In 2005, he won African footballer of the year award

The player made his first appearance for Nigeria in 1993, played a total of 73 games and scored 14 goals.

He rose to worldwide notoriety through his drilling skills that he displayed against Kalsruhewhile playing for the German side,Eintracht Frankfurt 

Internationally, he played with Fenerbache, PSG and Bolton wanderers.

Nwankwo Kanu

Name in home country: Nwankwo Christian Nwosu Kanu

Date of birth: Aug 1, 1976

Place of birth: Owerri Nigeria

Age: 43

Height: 1,97 m

Citizenship: Nigeria

Duration: 1994-2010

Caps: 86

Goals: 13

Position: Forward – Centre-Forward

Foot: right

Current club: Retired

Kalu is Nigeria’s most decorated soccer player hence is among the 10 best Nigerian players of all time.

Kanu started the display of his prowess for the Nigerian National team side when he captained the team to triumph at the 1993 Under 17 World Cup. The football star repeated this very feat 3 years after the fact at the Olympic Games and his exhibition, especially in the domination against Brazil side, led to his being named the African player of the year in 1996. He went ahead to grab the award again in 1999.

Kanu played a total of 87 games for Nigeria and netted a total of 13 goals.

Internationally, in the early days of his career, Nwankwo Kanu won 3 Eredivisie championships and the UEFA Champions League with Ajax, and went ahead to win the UEFA Cup with Inter Milan.

He also played with Arsenal and won many other significant honors including the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup, and Premier League. 

More so, before retiring from international football, he played with Highbury and Portsmouth, that he netted a goal for that made them lift the 2007 FA Cup.

There are other notable Nigerians who have made the country proud in the world of football. You can make comments about them below

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