No matter what criteria one uses to compile the list of the Best Nigerian footballers of all time,’ it will still remain arguable. Regardless, and in no particular order, here are seven of the best Nigerian players.
Popularly called “Papilo” during his playing days. Kanu is perhaps the best Nigerian player to have ever lived. His amazing ball intelligence was in fact supernatural. Pele once said that Kanu played more with his head than legs. Kanu is probably one of Africa’s most decorated footballers in history. He won UEFA Champions League trophy with Ajax, UEFA Cup with Inter Milan, three English FA Cup, one English Premier League, and Olympic Gold Medal.
Rasheed Yekini is perhaps one of the best African players to come out of the continent. Nigeria’s leading all-time goals scorer. Yekini was a menace to defenders. Some worth unstoppable giant with speed equivalent to that of Usain Bolt. Yekini scored Nigeria’s first world cup goal and also helped Nigeria win the 1994 African Cup of Nation’s in Tunisia… he was the highest goal scorer of the tournament. Yekini scored 37 goals in 58 appearances for the Nigerian national team – Super Eagles.
Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun
Arguably the most popular Nigerian footballer of all time whose fame has spanned over five decades since 1949. Thunder Balogun has become a kind of Superhero in the Nigeria folklore. It was said that Balogun’s shot rip opened the stomach of a player and burst through the goal net. Taiye Taiwo does not even come near.
Austin ‘Jay-jay Okocha
There hasn’t been any African player that could get near Jay-Jay in terms of his magical skills and flair. His ball tricks, flicks, leg-over were something out of this world. In 2004, Pele listed Okocha in his list of the greatest 125 living players of all time. In 2007, Okocha was voted the 12th greatest African footballer of the past 50 years. He won the inaugural edition of BBC African footballer of the year Award in 2003 and retained the Award in 2004.
Popularly called “mathematical” during his playing days… and his fame almost got to the level of divinity after he scored a brace that helped Nigeria win it’s first-ever African Cup of Nation in 1980. Odegbami’s speed and calculation as his flight the right-wing for club and the national team was phenomenal. He spent most of his playing career with IICC Shooting stars of Ibadan from 1970 to 1984. He scored 23 goals in his 46 caps for his country and helped Nigeria win its first African nations cup trophy in 1980.
A great attacking phenomenon that was fond of scoring deciding goals for both the Nigerian national team and his club sides. He scored the match-winner for Nigeria at the Africa cup of Nations in Tunisia 1994 and also scored the match-winner in Atlanta Olympics soccer finals in 1996.
Fondly called the prince of Monaco, Ikpeba lit up the whole of the French ligue1 with his mesmerizing skills and goal-scoring abilities. He scored 84 goals in 102 appearances for AS Monaco. Ikpeba won the CAF Africa footballer of the year award in 1997 and was a member of the Nigerian Dream team that won the Gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.