The French Ligue 1 is one of Europe’s top five leagues, and it has enjoyed the talents of many Nigerian stars both past and present.
French Ligue 1 is, by any measure, one of the best leagues in Europe. It is one of the top five leagues in Europe.
Because of the attractiveness and public coverage of the league, quite a lot of talented players will be world-class players playing their trades in France. Nigerians are no exception. There are several Nigerians who have featured for some top clubs in France but we did our selection based on players that made key roles in teams they played for. This may be an arguable selection but feel free to comment below.
VINCENT ENYEAMA – Lille
Vincent Enyeama is a pro footballer from Nigeria who plays as a goalkeeper. From 2002 through October 2015, he was also a member of the Nigerian national team, serving as its captain from 2013 until his retirement from international football. He is the most capped player of all time in Nigeria, with 101 caps.
Regarded as the greatest Nigeria goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama joined Lille in 2011, winning Ligue 1 Africa player of the season. He was also arguably one of the best goalkeepers in Ligue 1 during his time at Lille. He kept 11 consecutive clean sheets in French Ligue 1 matches during the first half of the season nearing to beat the record of Gaëtan Huard in 1993, playing 1176 minutes without conceding a goal.
PETER OSAZE ODEMWINGIE – Lille
In Uzbekistan and Russia, Odemwingie grew up and started his career in the Nigeria Premier League with Bendel Insurance. Then, with Belgian side La Louvière, he made a move to European football, where he spent three seasons winning the Belgian Cup before transferring to French side Lille. Odemwingie scored 26 Lille goals and also appeared for the side in the UEFA Champions League.
A number of prestigious European clubs were watching the Nigerian star, renowned for his technique and pace at Lille. Odemwingie however decided to remain in Lille and help them compete for the title the following season and scored five league goals for them in the 2006-07 season and one against A.C. Milan at the San Siro to send Lille to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.
JAY JAY OKOCHA – Paris Saint Germain
Who doesn’t know Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha, the Nigerian playmaker and regarded as the most skillful African footballer ever. Okocha plays football for fun making him a sensation for any side he plays for.
Okocha played for French Ligue 1 giant Paris Saint Germain along side Ronaldinho, making him one of the best African players to watch in Ligue at the time.
Until moving to Borussia Neunkirchen in 1990, he began his career with Enugu Rangers. He was signed by Eintracht Frankfurt after two years at the club, where he remained for over four years.
Jay Jay joined Fenerbahce in 1996, where he remained for two years until Paris Saint-Germain signed him up.
Okocha wowed fans with his skillful moves in his four years at PSG scoring goals that became classics. He was influential at PSG that he mentored young Ronaldinho back then at the club.
For the French team, he made a total of 84 appearances, scoring 12 goals in that period.
TAIYE TAIWO – Marseille
Taiye Ismaila Taiwo, who was only 20 years old at the time of the Lobi Stars, was signed by Olympique Marseille as a substitute for the aging Bixente Lizarazu.
The signing of the Nigerian as a substitute for the great Bixente Lizarazu may have been doubted by many, but he certainly silenced his detractors after great displays for the French side.
In those games he played in, the former Super Eagles star won 271 appearances to his credit for Marseille and netted just over 23 goals.
His Marseille honours include the 2009 league title, two (2) 2011 Coupe de la Ligue, and two (2) French Super Cups.
UTAKA JOHN – Montpellier
Utaka joined French side Lens from the Qatari side, Al-Sadd, in 2002. Until joining Stade Rennais in 2005, he played 123 matches for the French side, scoring 32 goals. He netted 28 times in 75 games in his two-year spell at Stade Rennes.
He left Rennes in 2007 and signed for Portsmouth, where he played for four years, winning the British FA Cup. With Montpelier, which proved to be his most fruitful time in terms of medals, he later returned to France.
In winning Montpellier’s first Ligue 1 title in its history, Utaka played a vital role. He is well regarded at the club and was nominated as the youth coach of the team.
VICTOR IKPEBA – Monaco
Ikpeba, dubbed the ‘Prince of Monaco’, began his European escapades with RFC Liège in Belgium, but was picked up in 1993 by Monaco.
In 217 games, Ikpeba scored 76 goals for Les Monégasques, including the 13 he scored in the 96/97 season as Monaco romped to the league championship.
Under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger, during his time in Monaco, Ikpeba was the biggest star in a club who also had the wonderful Theirry Henry.While at the club, he made his international debut and won the African Footballer of the Year in 1997.
Ikpeba captured the league title and also the French Super Cup during his six-year tenure at the club. In 1999, he left Monaco.