It is no doubt that Nigeria is an African football powerhouse. The Nigerian ‘Super Eagles’ have achieved the highest ranking for an African football team; FIFA ranking no. 5 in 1994.
They have won an Olympic Gold medal, appeared in the last six in seven World Cups, and qualified three times in the round of 16. This success has been driven by some of the finest footballers in the world.
Nigerian football players have made a mark in world football, playing for big teams in top football leagues, including the top five European leagues.
With the World Cup in a few years, it will be interesting to see which Nigerian stars can shine in that tournament. You can find the best betting sites in Nigeria here to predict how you think Nigeria will do.
Here are the top Nigerian footballers of all time, in no particular order;
1-Tesilimi Olawale “Teslim” Balogun
Teslim was also nicknamed ‘Thunder’ or ‘Balinga’ for his powerful shots. He is on the list because he was among the first African players in international football. He played for Queens Park Rangers in the 1956/57 season, netting 13 goals. He was on the national team for 12 years.
Teslim was also the first African qualified professional coach, guiding the Nigerian national team in Mexico’s 1968 Olympic games. The Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos was named in his honor.
2- Rashid Yekini
Yekini’s speed, combined with his big size, made him a menace on the pitch. Before moving to Ivory Coast and eventually to the Portuguese Primeira team, he started playing for Nigerian clubs, Vitoria Setubal.
Yekini was the highest scorer in the Primeira Liga in 1994, with 34 goals in 32 games. He was instrumental in Nigeria’s winning the 1996 Olympic gold medal, having netted the first goal against Bulgaria. He was also named CAF’s golden boot player in the same year.
3- Vincent Enyeama
Goalkeepers rarely get the honor they deserve, but Enyeama deserves a place in Nigerian top mentions. He was part of the 2002 World Cup squad, where he made impressive saves from the likes of David Beckham. He made 101 international appearances for the Super Eagles and was in the Super Eagles squads that took the 2003 and 2004 CAF cups.
4- ‘Jay-jay’ Okocha
Jay jay made waves with his dribbling skills and tricks on the pitch. He was one of the most successful Nigerian internationals. He played for Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahçe, PSG, and Bolton Wanderers. He was the 2005 African Footballer of the Year. He is also on Pele’s list of 125 greatest footballers.
5- Stephen Keshi
Keshi was the longest-serving captain of the Super Eagles, with a career spanning 1981-1995. He was also one of the earliest Nigerian players to appear in continental European football. He played for Lokeren, Anderlecht, and Strasbourg. Keshi later became the Super Eagles coach, leading them to win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
6- Finidi George
George was regarded as one of the finest wingers during his time in Europe. He came to Ajax and quickly made his mark, leading Ajax to three Eredivisie wins and the Champions League. He appeared 62 times for the Super Eagles, including being part of the 1996 dream team.
7- John Obi Mikel
Obi Mikel first impressed the world after being named first runner-up in the 2005 World Youth Championship. He later played an important role in Chelsea’s dominant squad that won the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and FA Cup. He appeared for the Super Eagles 89 times, including winning the 2013 AFCON.
8- Sunday Oliseh
Oliseh had an impressive presence on the pitch, making him very good in his deep midfield role. He played with Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, and Juventus, winning all top trophies, including Eredivisie, Bundesliga, and UEFA cup. He appeared internationally 54 times for the Super Eagles, including the 3-2 win over Spain in 1998.
9- Taribo West
The crazy-haired Nigerian is perhaps the most celebrated defender in Nigerian football. There is a football club named after him. Taribo played for top teams Auxerre, AC Milan, and Inter Milan. He made 42 international appearances for the Super Eagles.
10- Nwankwo Kanu
Kanu is the most decorated Nigerian footballer with an impressive 86 appearances for the Super Eagles. His international career in Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Chelsea, West Brom, and Plymouth saw him win prestigious trophies including Eredivisie, Champions League, UEFA Cup, FA Cup, and Premier League trophies. Arsenal named him the 13th Greatest Gunner of all time.
Which other Nigerian footballer do you think belongs to this list?