One of the most successful nations in African football, it should come as no surprise that Nigeria have produced some incredible football players over the years. With the riches on offer in the Premier League, it should come as even less surprise that some of the best Nigerian players have ended up in England, setting the league on fire with their talent. So, who are the best Nigerian footballers in Premier League history?
5 best Nigerian footballers in Premier League history
Victor Moses (Crystal Palace, Wigan, Chelsea, Liverpool, Stoke, West Ham)
Not many have enjoyed a more varied career than Victor Moses. Originally touted as the next big thing when at Crystal Palace, Moses found himself in the middle of a power struggle between Nigeria and England. Despite being a former England U-21 captain, the lively winger opted to play for The Super Eagles instead of his adopted homeland.
Blessed with lightning pace, Moses terrorised defences and helped Wigan in several relegation battles before eventually moving to Chelsea. His move to London started slow but a move to wing-back gave him a much-coveted second wind. With a strong physical presence without sacrificing any of his speed, Moses became an integral part of a Chelsea squad that won the 2016/17 title. Despite being shipped around various clubs around England and Europe, Moses has proved time and time again that he is a top drawer player no matter where he plays and deserves to be mentioned as one of the best Nigerian footballers we’ve seen in England.
John Obi Mikel (Chelsea)
He didn’t often grab the headlines but John Obi Mikel played a large role in Chelsea becoming a dominant force in the Premier League. Taking on the holding midfielder position, Mikel slotted into that role perfectly shielding the defence and becoming the vital link towards the attack.
His composure and passing ability was some of the best anywhere in the league and he had a physical presence that could help unsettle strikers with ease. Almost always a part of the Chelsea squad for a decade no matter who the manager was, Mikel was part of teams that won 2x Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups and a Champions League final. It’s an honour role that not many players can claim to enjoy.
Jay-Jay Okocha (Bolton)
One of Africa’s biggest stars at the turn of the century, it seemed a little surprising that Jay-Jay Okocha chose to sign for Bolton in 2002 after his PSG contract expired. It was a masterstroke for The Trotters though as their star midfielder helped turn Sam Allardyce’s team into a tour de force.
Acting as the club’s captain, Okocha led by example with his flamboyant skillset matched by a cool demeanour and an eye for passing. He also had a wicked shot from a long distance too netting potential goal of the season contenders from all sorts of striking distances on several occasions.
He was a well-loved figure at The Reebok Stadium and his efforts were rewarded with consecutive BBC African Player of the Year awards in 2003 and 2004 for his exploits in the Premier League. He continues to have ties in English football having encouraged his nephew Alex Iwobi into English football who has followed in the family tradition of being a Premier League star and one of the best Nigerian footballers in its history.
Yakubu (Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton, Blackburn)
Ayegbeni Yakubu made a name for himself by being the closest match to a moving freight train anywhere on a football pitch. His huge physical presence was enough to shake off even the strongest of defenders yet he still had all the technical ability to find the back of the net without any issue.
Deadly in the penalty box and extremely powerful in the air, Yakubu was a clinical finisher no matter what type of side he was facing. His presence helped the likes of Middlesbrough and Everton compete strongly in both domestic and European competitions scoring at vital moments throughout the season. Injuries prevented Yakubu from ever earning a move to a top side but he was a player who always shone through no matter who he played against.
Kanu (Arsenal, West Brom, Portsmouth)
Whilst his first name may utter some concerned frowns from your parents, there is no denying that Nwankwo Kanu endeared himself to football fans throughout England. His time with Arsenal saw the Nigerian predator support the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp in a terrifying attack that led to two Premier League titles including being a part of “The Invincibles” team that won the 03/04 campaign.
His ability in the final third was immense proven none more so in a 1999 clash against Chelsea where he came off the bench to score a 15-minute hat-trick and help The Gunners win 3-2. This form continued to show itself off during his time with Portsmouth where it was his goal that won Pompey the 2008 FA Cup in a 1-0 victory against Cardiff. With fans across the country chanting his name on the pitch, his reputation grew off the pitch with numerous charitable donations and events for children in both Nigeria and the UK. A class act through and through. One of the best Nigerian footballers to grace the Premier League, if not the best.
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