As the second week of the 2015/2016 English Premier League (EPL) season trudges on this weekend, expectations would be sky high as players will seek to secure national team call-ups or secure their places on the team with outstanding performances.
And with most top Nigerian players retaining their clubs, Naij.com takes a look at the top 10 greatest Nigerian players to have played in the EPL, including those who are still playing.
10. Victor Moses (Wigan, Stoke, Liverpool, Chelsea)
He was first discovered as a Crystal Palace winger in the Championship before being snapped up by then Wigan coach, Roberto Martinez. Following some spectacular performances with the modest English club, Moses caught the eye of Jose Mourinho, who brought the player to Chelsea.
The player was loaned to Liverpool and then Stoke City, before returning to Chelsea at the end of last season. He won the UEFA Cup with The Blues in the 2012/2013 and was a star player for the Super Eagles of Nigeria at the 2013 Nations Cup triumph.
Victor Moses has played for about four EPL Clubs in less than five seasons
If Moses can churn out impressive performances weekly, it will not be too long before he registers himself as one of the greatest Nigerians to grace the EPL.
9. Obafemi Martins (Newcastle, Birmingham)
Obafemi Martins, popularly called ‘Obagoal’ for his goalscoring prowess, will not be forgotten in a haste by football enthusiasts in the EPL, especially for his thunderbolt strike for Newcastle against Tottenham Hotspur.
The 20-yard shot rocketed into the net and was immediately was clocked by Sky Sports at a speed of 84 mph (135 km/h), making it unofficially the ninth hardest shot ever recorded in football history, according to the Guardian website.
Obafemi Martins in the colours of Seattle Sounders, is out injured again
Martins, who was handed the prestigious 9 jersey, previously worn by club and England legend, Alan Shearer, could only win the Intertoto Cup with the Magpies before scoring the opening goal for Birmingham against Arsenal in their 2011 League Cup win over the ‘Gunners’.
The one-time Inter Milan of Italy star man, presently plies his trade with Seattle Sounders in the American Major League Soccer, as one of the league’s strongest players.
8. Celestine Babayaro (Chelsea, Newcastle)
One of Nigeria’s players on this list to play for a club for at least seven consecutive seasons, Celestine Babayaro held sway as Chelsea’s left full back from 1997-2004, after signing from Anderlecht.
To show how badly they needed him, Chelsea paid £2.25million, a club record for a teenager at the time, to convince the Belgian side to sell him to them.
Celestine Bababyaro, was fondly rememberd in England as a ‘play boy’, who was always around ladies
Babayaro, who would later move to Newcastle, won the UEFA Super Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup with Chelsea in 1998, and was also part of the FA Cup winning-side in 2000.
He was a delight to watch, more with his trademark back flips and dashing foray forward from his defensive position.
The one time golden boy of Chelsea, retired from football on 2010 and was declared bankrupt the following year.
7. Daniel Amokachi (Everton)
Daniel ‘The Bull’ Amokachi became the first Nigerian player to play in the EPL when he starred for Everton after his exploits for Nigeria at the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
He was also the first player to score in the new format of the UEFA Champions League, after his goal secured a 1–0 win in the opening match in the group stage against CSKA Moscow before his Everton move.
Football – FA Cup Semi-Final – Everton v Tottenham Hotspur – Elland Road – 9/4/95
Everton’s Daniel Amokachi beats Spurs’ Gary Mabbutt
Mandatory Credit: Action Images
Amokachi remembered for his beret-wearing goal celebration styles and at Everton, his name is best remembered as one who dared his coach and came on as a half-time substitute against Tottenham Hotspurs and went on to score two goals in same match.
Amokachi is the newly-appointed Technical Adviser of Ifeanyi Ubah FC in Nigeria’s Glo NPFL, having being recently unveiled by the club owner, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah.
6. Osaze Odemwengie (West Brom, Crystal Palace, Stoke City)
The Nigerian half-caste became an instant hit when he moved from Russian club, Lokomotic Moscow to the Baggies in 2010.
During his stay at West Brom, he became the club’s all-time highest goalscorer in a season when he smashed 15 league goals in his first season for the modest side.
Peter Osaze Odemwingie was an instant hit at West Bromwich Albion after his move from Lokomotiv Moscow
Odemwengie also became the first player in West Brom’s Premier League history to score in four consecutive games. The light-skinned Nigerian star won his second Premier League Player of the Month award in his debut season, making him only the sixth man to have received the accolade twice in a season in the award’s history.
He would later move to Crystal Palace after falling out with his employers, and now plies his trade with Stoke City.
Odemwengie is out injured after hurting his leg in training.
5. Joseph Yobo (Everton, Norwich City)
Former mercurial captain of Nigeria’s Super Eagles, became then manager, David Moyes’ first signing when his loan deal from Marseille was made permanent, and went on to remain at the heart of the team’s defence for a lengthy period.
The former Fenerbache defender also became one of the most consistent players in the Everton squad, and was one of only seven players in the entire league to play every minute of every game throughout the 2006–07 season.
Joseph Yobo (left) was an outstanding and consistent for both club and country
Yobo held the record for most appearances for an overseas player at Everton, until early 2012. He also emerged as the club’s captain, thus becoming the first African to skipper the Liverpool-based club.
His consistency in all the teams he has played in also meant that he chalked up 100 appearances for the Nigerian national team, a feat only bettered by a handful of Nigerian internationals.
Yobo is presently out of contract and may have hung his boots, although he is yet to officially state so.
4. John Obi Mikel (Chelsea FC)
After resolving the impasse between Chelsea and Manchester United on who first agreed a deal for the player from Lyn Oslo in the Norwegian League, Mikel became a main starter for Chelsea in the EPL.
He replaced legendary French Midfield anchor, Claude Makalele, who was signed by PSG at the time, and went on to flourish as Chelsea’s holding midfield player, a role in which he has held sway ever since.
With ‘The Blues’, Mikel has won virtually every trophy available for grabs in club football as he has survived all the managers to have been hired and fired during his time and the English club.
He also remains one of the few Nigerian players to have won the prestigious Champions League trophy, and the only Nigerian player to date, to have won it with an English team.
Nigeria’s John Obi Mikel (left), celebrating his first goal in 258 Premier League matches for Chelsea
The player, who is about the second longest-serving member of Chelsea, has expressed his desire to keep playing for the club despite the fact that his appearance has been reduced following the return of Nemanja Matic and the presence of Ramires, both of whom are strong contenders for the holding midfield role with Mikel.
In 2005, he was only second to Argentina’s Lionel Messi as the best youth player on earth and might end up being Nigeria’s longest-serving player in the EPL if he continues with Chelsea next season.
Although many Nigerians will not forgive this burly striker easily for his role in Nigeria’s World Cup miss in 2010, which entirely ensured that the tam was knocked out in the group stages, Aiyegbeni’s holds an enviable record in the English Premier League with goals return.
His 28 Premier League goals between his two seasons in Portsmouth, makes him, the club’s highest ever scorer in the Premier League and was also transferred to Everton in August 2007 for a fee of £11.25 million on a five-year deal, which was at the time the most the club had ever paid for a player.
‘The Yak’ as football fans in England called him, is only one of the two African strikers to have hit 100 goals in English football, the second being Didier Drogba.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni (in the colours of Everton), was one of the most prolific strikers in the Premier League
He also became the first Everton player since Peter Beardsley to net 20 goals in a season, during his stint at the Goodison Park.
The one time Blackburn striker was only second to legendary Arsenal striker, Thierry Henry for about three consecutive seasons in terms of goals conversion rate and proficiency in front of goal, such was his consistency in the EPL.
Reports suggest that he has been snapped up by APOEL in the Isreali League, where he cut his teeth many years ago.
2. Austin Jay-Jay Okocha (Bolton, Hull City)
Nigeria’s former mercurial midfield maestro soon carved a niche for himself on arrival at the Whites after the Korea/Japan World Cup in 2002, as one of the best set piece specialists in English football.
His trademark stepovers and sublime skills also ensured that he was given the captain’s armband at the Reebok stadium two seasons after he joined.
The fans, who were always treated to his trickery on the pitch, soon printed shirts with the inscription, “Jay-Jay, so good they named him twice”.
Austin Jay Jay Okocha was best known for his trademark stepovers and sublime passes
Okocha led the team to a first cup final in nine years and his goal in his first season with the club was in 2008, voted as Bolton’s best premier league goal.
The Nigerian, who heads the Delta state football association in his native country, Nigeria, is also perceived as the second all-time great in the club’s history, especially because of how much joy the fans and club faithful derived from watching him with the ball.
Recent reports have suggested that the former player, who later moved to Hull City, is likely to return to football with an English club.
1. Kanu Nwankwo (Arsenal, West Brom, Portsmouth)
Arguably the most successful Nigerian player in the country’s history, Kanu Nwankwo became a cult hero at Arsenal FC after his move from Inter Milan following his heart surgery.
The former Ajax Amsterdan star man, was best known as a super-sub, as he scored more crucial goals for his team while starting from the bench than when he was a starter.
One of such memorable games was when he came off the bench to score three goals in fifteen minutes against Chelsea, with his team 0-2 down.
Kanu won the EPL with Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and is one of the few players to have won the English FA Cup with different teams having won it with Arsenal and Portsmouth.
Kanu Nwankwo, posing with some of the trophies he won during his time at Arsenal FC
The former Eagles captain is rated 13th in the Gunners’ all-time top 50 best players in alist that has the likes of Marc Overmars, Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, among several other world class stars that featured for the North-London side.
He is also more popular for his Kanu Heart Foundation, a platform which he uses to help children with holes in the heart, having also experienced same trauma during his time at Inter.
Are there players whom you consider good enough for this list but were not listed?