The Five Greatest Nigerian Players of All Time

Friday 14 March 2014

/ by Colin Udoh

While I am not Nigerian, not a day goes by when I don’t read and write about Nigerian football and Nigerian footballers.
This has been the case for some time, but my appreciation of the Super Eagles can be dated back to my childhood and those vivid images that just, somehow, find their way into one’s mind and never depart.
I can, for example, clearly remember the afternoon when a late pair of goals downed Spain in that unforgettable encounter at the 1998 World Cup. I was in France that day, not in Nantes however, but down in Ainhoa, in the Pyrenees, near the Spanish border.
That afternoon, my brother (who celebrated his birthday the next day) spent an hour or two reliving the glorious moments from that pulsating encounter.
Needless to say, I was Sunday Oliseh, hammering home past Andoni Zubizarreta; Jim, my unfortunate brother, was the hapless Spanish goalkeeper.
 In this feature, to celebrate the launch of Colin’s site, and to place a pre-World Cup marker in the ground, I have presented a list of the players who are, in my opinion, the five greatest Nigerians of all time.
To choose this quintet, I have considered pure, natural ability, club honours, national honours and personal honours.
 John Obi Mikel, the figurehead of the current generation, hasn’t made the cut, but he is only a major achievement or two away from inclusion. A strong showing in Brazil might catapult the Chelsea man into my selection.

5. Daniel Amokachi
 Amokachi represented Nigeria at the World Cups of 1994 and 1998 and was also a key man in the Super Eagles side that conquered the continent in Tunisia in ’94.
 In 1996, Amokachi scored in the 74th minute of the Olympic Final against Argentina, helping Nigeria to draw level with the Albiceleste and setting the stage for Emmanuel Amuneke’s 90th minute winner.
 In England, he scored an awesome brace against Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-final of the 1995 FA Cup en route to a tournament triumph with Everton.

 4. Rashidi Yekini
 In terms of African imagery at a World Cup, perhaps only Roger Milla’s dancing at the 1990 showpiece can top Rashidi Yekini’s emphatic roar into the goal net in Dallas.
 The Bull of Kaduna’s club career never truly matched his marvellous talent for putting the ball in the back of the net, but the powerful striker is still recognised as one of Africa’s greatest.
 He managed to score with the unflinching regularity of men such as Tony Yeboah and Godfrey Chitalu, and received the honours, both individually and with the Super Eagles, to confirm his place within the pantheon.

 3. Emmanuel Amuneke
 Any mention of Amuneke, particularly as part of a broad review, must make mention of his atrocious injury record. Were it not for the frequent (and extensive) stints on the sidelines, who knows how far the player’s talent could have carried him.
 Amuneke was a one-time African Footballer of the Year, but he could, and would, have surely won so many more had he remained fit.
 Considering his long absences, we should delight that Amuneke was present for the Olympic and AFCON triumphs of the early 90s.

 2. Jay-Jay Okocha
 Okocha was a magician with a football and, quite rightly, bears the moniker ‘The Nigerian Maradona’. He played with a childlike enthusiasm and a scruffy, unkempt demeanour that belied his awesome technical ability.
 Few players in the history of the game enjoyed the same mastery of the football as the playmaker from Enugu State and Okocha was rightly revered—albeit belatedly—for his audacious skills.
 He was twice named BBC African Footballer of the Year and was the jewel in the crown of the Super Eagles generation that won Olympic gold and the AFCON title in the early 90s.

 1. Nwankwo Kanu
 By any standards, Kanu is a special player.
 The Nigerian forward can look back on a career laced with ups and downs.
 The highs include a Champions League triumph with Ajax, two Premier League titles, Olympic Gold, the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup. His showings in these tournaments have been rewarded with two African Footballer of the Year awards.
There have, however, been lows.
Unlike many of his compatriots, Kanu never won an African title with Nigeria and also endured relegation with Portsmouth at the end of his career.
He remains, however, one of the most innovative, skilful and unpredictable players that Africa has ever produced.
As I am sure most of you reading this will be able to testify, it was a joy to watch Kanu in action.

By Ed Dove
 Twitter: @Eddydove
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  1. I totally disagree but i wont argue much with you since you already said you are not a Nigerian. You lack history knowledge from Nigerian point of view. There are players who sacrificed their lives nd blood just to bring Nigeria football to the forefront,i think they are the real heroes not Amokachi,Kanu or Amunike except you want to judge from achievement pont of view or gracing world cup,but that is another thing entirely ....

  2. What about Oliseh, Peter Ruffai, Keshi, Finidi george, henry Nwosu, dimeji lawal, etc


  3. Obviously while your write up on Nigerian modern football shows you have been following the eagles of late and that you are a modern follower of our eagles but your selection of Nigeria's best shows u are new to Nigerian football and lack depth of our history. of the five players u chose, kanu and okocha and rashidi deserves to be in it. finidi george's span over 10 years in our history. he won champions league with ajax as well as the nations cup. he was one time the best right winger in the world and crosser of the ball before beckham dropped into the scene. segun odegbami will remain a legend of nigerian football.
    top five
    5. finidi
    4. odegbami
    3. rashidi yekini
    2. jay jay okocha
    1. undisputed king kwankwo kanu.


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