Sports24 explores Nigerian Super Eagles’ greatest and most successful players in Spanish La Liga history.
- Ikechukwu Uche – Villareal, Real Zarazoga, Recreativo Huelva, Getafe, Granada and Málaga
- Finidi George – Real Betis, Mallorca
- Mutiu Adepoju – Real Madrid, Racing Santander, Salamanca
- Gbenga Samuel Okunowo – Barcelona, Benfica
- Obafemi Martins – Levante
In Spain, the forward had good stints with Recreativo Huelva, Getafe and Villarreal, where he obviously had a knack for scoring against the Real Madrid giants.
In 2006, Uche was instrumental in the promotion of Recreativo to La Liga, before following it with an impressive 06/07, scoring eight league goals in 22 starts as the newcomers unexpectedly finished eighth.With the first coming in a seismic 3-0 victory at Santiago Bernabeu, two of those hits came against Los Blancos.
He transferred to Getafe, but he was not a regular. Still, the most critical moment came in 07/08 when, in a close 1-0 victory, he scored the winner against leading Real Madrid before scoring again in a 3-1 triumph in 08/09.
Between 2009 and 2011, two serious injuries hampered his impact at Real Zaragoza, but a move to Villarreal sparked a resurgence. The AFCON 2013 winner left in 2015 after having scored 33 times in 85 matches for the Yellow Submarine. The influence of Uche on three teams makes him the most outstanding Nigerian ever to appear in La Liga.
Former Super Eagles player Finidi George had a good period playing in the Laliga, despite playing as a right winger for much of his career.
Finidi had an incredibly good career as a player and is one of the few Nigerians to have won the UEFA Champions League, a feat he accomplished in the 1994/95 season with Ajax Amsterdam.
The winger named ‘Finito’ shone for Real Betis and Mallorca for his ability to produce perfect crosses while scoring 35 goals in 165 Laliga appearances in Spain and clocking 13,501 minutes in the process.
In the early 90s, Adepoju not only helped Racing Santander win La Liga promotion, he then prospered as they finished eighth in 93/94 on their return to the top flight.
In subsequent years at Real Sociedad, the attacking midfielder’s strength in Spain diminished, but his impact earlier at Los Verdiblancos made him a regular in the clubbefore their relegation in 2012.
The winner of AFCON 1994 enjoyed an impressive start at Sociedad, but could not reliably duplicate the form he displayed at Racing Santander. Nonetheless, his remarkable stint at Racing remains incredibly important.
As he remains the only Nigerian player to ever capture the Spanish Laliga crown, former Super Eagles defender Gbenga Okunowo unexpectedly comes into this list.
Although the overall LaLiga stats of Okunowo are dwarfed by other Nigerian stars who have graced the top Spanish flight, it is not easy to ignore the fact that he won the LaLiga award.
In his first season with Barcelona, he was an 18-year-old rising star who went on to win the LaLiga championship at the end of the 1998/99 season.
At Benfica, Okunowo spent the following campaign on loan, but making just two appearances all season. He did not appear in 2000/01 and was eventually let go by the Spanish giants.
Martins ended the 2012/13 campaign as the team’s highest scorer in all competitions with 9 goals, despite playing for Levante for only one season.
He also netted seven La Liga shots, the team’s biggest, and aided them in the Europa League’s last 16.
Obafemi scored twice against Olympiacos in the 32 4-0 round of aggregate success, and can appear to have had a successful year with the Granotas.