Nigeria isn’t the first country that springs to mind when you think of nations that are known for creating world-class footballing talents.
While other African nations have produced many star players in the past, Nigeria has produced a surprisingly large number of players that have found themselves to be instrumental to the success of many clubs around the world.
Nigeria has produced some of the most prolific wingers and forwards to have graced the Premier League.
Here are 20 of the best Nigerian players to have played in the Premier League over the last number of years. How many of them do you recognise?
You might be surprised by some of the inclusions despite the success of the Nigerian national team at the African Cup of Nations and Olympics Games over the past couple of decades.
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20) Danny Shittu
Danny Shittu was one of the most robust centre-halves of the early 00s. He made a total of 346 appearances in the Premier League and the Championship. His career spans across multiple clubs in both leagues. His most successful Premier League stint was with Watford in 2001 where he made 30 appearances for the club and scored two goals.
At international level, Shittu has made 32 appearances for the Nigeria being involved in the 2010 African cup of Nations and the 2010 World Cup.
19) John Utaka
John Utaka joined Premier League outfit Portsmouth in 2007 from French side Rennes for £7m. He spent three seasons at the club and made 90 appearances, bagging 10 goals.
His assist provided the winning goal in the FA cup final against Cardiff City. His time at Portsmouth was overshadowed by the club’s impending financial troubles.
Eventually, he left to join French side Montpellier after a disappointing final season for the club. Utaka has made 43 appearances for the national team, scoring six goals.
18) Isaac Success
Isaac Success is a 21-year-old forward who signed for Watford in July 2016 for a club-record transfer fee of £12.5m. So far, he has made 12 appearances for the senior team and scored one goal.
He has represented the Nigeria Under-17 team seven times and scored seven goals. In 2015, he was promoted to the Under-20 team and he has gone on to make four appearances and score two goals.
Success is clearly a potential talent for the future. How far will this young striker go?
17) Ahmed Musa
Another rising talent is winger Ahmed Musa. While only a new signing at Leicester City, he has shown a clear talent that would be useful for any Premier League team. He has made 18 appearances for the champions and has scored two goals.
His international career has been impressive so far. He represented the Nigerian Under-20 side six times in 2011 and scored three goals. He also represented the Under-23’s for one game in 2011.
At senior level, he has made 60 appearances and scored 11 goals. He won the 2013 African Cup of Nations as well as the 2011 African Youth Championship.
16) Seyi Olofinjana
Seyi Olofinjana spent most of his career in the Championship. However, he had two seasons in the Premier League. His first stint came in 2008 for newly-promoted Stoke City. He made 21 appearances for the club and scored two goals. At the end of the season, Stoke accepted a £2.5m offer from AS Monaco. In the end, the negotiations broke down and Olofinjana signed for Hull City.
Olofinjana made 19 appearances for Hull and scored a single goal. Unfortunately, Hull were not able to save themselves from relegation and were relegated to the Championship. Olofinjana made 56 appearances for the Nigerian national team.
15) Victor Moses
A name familiar to many Premier League fans, Victor Moses has been a regular in the Premier League for a number of years. He has played for no less than six Premier League clubs in his career. He came through the ranks of the Crystal Palace youth setup and made 58 appearances for the team and scored 11 goals. The club soon entered administration and during the uncertainty, Moses moved to Wigan Athletic for £2.5m.
Moses stayed with Wigan for four seasons and made 74 appearances for the club and scored nine goals. In 2012, Chelsea signed the winger.
In his first season, he scored nine goal in 23 appearances and earned himself a Champions League winner’s medal. Over the next three seasons, he found himself loaned out to different Premier League clubs, including Liverpool, Stoke, and West Ham before returning to Chelsea.
Moses has made 21 appearances for the national team, scoring nine goals. He was part of the 2013 African Cup of Nations team.
14) Odion Ighalo
Odion Ighalo was part of the Watford team that won promotion to the Premier League in 2015. Instrumental in their promotion race, he would prove to be equally important in their first season in the Premier League. He won the Premier League player of the month in December 2015. He finished with a return of 15 goals in the 2015-16 season.
However, his 2016-17 season was less impressive. In 17 appearances, he only managed to score a single goal. In the January transfer window, he signed for Chinese club Changchun Yatai.
At international level, Ighalo has played 12 times for the senior team scoring 3 goals. He won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.
13) Kelechi Iheanacho
Kelechi Iheanacho is a rising star in the Premier League. He was signed from his home team to the Manchester City youth team in 2014. He was sent on loan to MLS club Columbus Crew as a result of him being unable to obtain a work permit until February 2015. When he finally did get a work permit his youth team performances were impressive enough to promote him to the senior squad.
His competitive debut came against Watford when he replaced Raheem Sterling. He has been battling for a starting spot at Manchester City. He has scored 20 goals in 40 appearances (so far). He has scored 12 goals in 18 appearances for Nigeria.
12) Shola Ameobi
Shola Ameobi was one of the longest-serving players at any club in the Premier League era. He served Newcastle for 14 years which saw him make 312 appearances. In that time, he bagged 53 goals for the Magpies. He also holds the record for the most appearances as a substitute in the Premier League.
Ameobi qualified to play for both England and Nigeria at an international level. While he was capped a number of times for the England Under-21’s he eventually opted to play for Nigeria in 2011. He ended up making 10 appearances and scored two goals between 2012 and 2014 and was part of the 2014 World Cup squad.
11) Efan Ekoku
Effan Ekoku arrived at Norwich City in 1993. At the time, the club was in a heated fight for the title. Ekoku managed to score three goals in the remaining 10 games of the campaign and Norwich managed a respectable third-place finish and secured a Uefa Cup position in which he scored Norwich’s first-ever European goal.
He remained with the Canaries for another year and scored 13 times in 28 games before moving to Wimbledon. He made 123 appearances and scored 37 goals for the London side, helping the club get to the semi-finals of both domestic cups. He scored six goals in 20 appearances for Nigeria between 1994 and 1998.
10) Daniel Amokachi
The first Nigerian to play in the Premier League when he was signed by Everton in 1994. After a good performance in the 1994 World Cup, Everton manager Mike Walker signed the winger for a fee of £3m. He became famous in 1995 when he brought himself on as a substitute in an FA Cup semi-final game against Tottenham in which he scored two goals. Everton would go on to win the FA cup that year and the resulting Community Shield. Amokachi made 43 appearances for the club and scored 10 goals.
The player made 44 appearances for the national team and netted 13 goals. He has a gold medal from the 1996 Olympic games and a winner’s medal from the 1994 African Cup of Nations.
9) Victor Anichebe
Victor Anichebe has spent his senior career in the Premier League. A product of the Everton youth setup, he made his first team debut for the Toffees at the age of 17 against Chelsea. His first career goal was in 2006 against West Bromwich Albion. In the same year, he was awarded Everton’s Reserve player of the year. Anichebe made 131 appearances for Everton and netted 26 goals in that time.
In 2013, Anichebe moved to West Bromwich Albion. He made 55 appearances and scored nine goals. He remained at the club for three years before leaving after his contract expired.
In late 2016, he re-joined his former manager David Moyes at Sunderland and has so far made 11 appearances and scored three goals. He has represented Nigeria at all levels. He has a silver medal from the 2008 Olympic games.
8) Jay-Jay Okocha
A name familiar to Bolton fans, Jay-Jay Okocha fast became a fan favourite at the club. Okocha was instrumental in saving Bolton from relegation in his first season, scoring seven goals to help the struggling team move out of the bottom of the table.
His goal against West Ham was voted the Premier League team goal of the season. The following season, he was awarded the captain’s armband and helped lead the team to their first cup final in almost 10 years where they finished runners-up to Middlesbrough.
Okocha was stripped of his captaincy in 2006 and he left for a club in Qatar. Okocha played 124 league games for Bolton, scoring 14 goals. He made 75 appearances for the Nigerian national team and netted 15 times. He was part of the 1994 African Cup of Nations winning team and the 1996 Olympic Games gold medallist team.
7) Obafemi Martins
Obafemi Martins arrived in the Premier League in 2006 as Newcastle United’s new signing from Inter Milan. He inherited the number nine shirt left vacant by club legend Alan Shearer. While his first few games for the club were underwhelming he turned his form around and scored 17 goals in 46 games. Martins made 88 appearances for the club, scoring 28 goals before leaving for German side Wolfsburg.
At international level, he has made 41 appearances and scored 18 goals. Martins captained the side for the first time in 2007. His late goal in 2009 against Kenya ensured Nigeria’s qualification for the 2010 World Cup.
6) Peter Odemwingie
Peter Odemwingie arrived in the Premier League late in his career. He was signed by West Bromwich Albion in 2010 from Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow at the age of 29. He fast became a fan favourite and prolific scorer for the Baggies, netting 15 goals in his first season. He would go on to make 87 appearances in total, and scored another 14 goals in the league.
However, in 2013, relations between Odemwingie and the club turned sour. He made 15 appearances but only managed to score one league goal during a short spell at Cardiff City. In 2014, he joined Stoke City and made 27 appearances for the club, scoring five goals.
At international level, Odemwingie made 69 appearances for his country, scoring 11 goals and earning himself a silver medal in the 2008 Olympic games.
5) Celestine Babayaro
Regarded by many as one of the best full-backs to come out of Nigeria. Babayaro moved to Chelsea in 1997 from Belgian club Anderlecht for a fee of £2.25m. The player made over 200 appearances for Chelsea and scored five goals in his stint there. Whilst at the club, he earned winner’s medals for the 1997-98 Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup, the Super Cup, and the FA Cup.
He moved to Newcastle and consistently put himself in contention for a starting spot after calling time on his Chelsea career. However, in 2007, due to mounting injury problems both the player and the club decided to he should be released from his contract.
Babayaro made 27 appearances for Nigeria and has an Olympic gold medal from the 1996 Games.
4) Joseph Yobo
Joseph Yobo was the first signing made by David Moyes in his Everton career. He played every minute of Everton’s games in the 2006-07 season and had an outstanding defensive partnership with his teammate Joleon Lescott. During Phil Neville’s absence Yobo captained the team, and in doing so became the first African player to wear the armband for the club. He made 220 appearances for the club and scored eight goals during his time there.
At international level Yobo was the captain of the 2013 African Cup of Nations winning team. With 101 appearances, he is Nigeria’s record appearance holder.
3) Yakubu Aiyegbeni
Yakubu made his Premier League debut for Portsmouth in 2003. He made 65 appearances and scored 29 goals as the striker became Portsmouth’s highest ever goal scorer in the Premier League. In 2005, Yakubu made the move to Middlesbrough for £7.5m, which is a record transfer fee for a Nigerian player. His performances helped Middlesbrough reach the 2006 Uefa Cup final but they lost to Sevilla. He made 73 appearances for the team and scored 25 goals.
In 2006, Yakubu made the switch to Everton. His first goal for the Toffees was scored minutes into his first game against Bolton Wanderers. It was at Everton where the striker scored his first 100th Premier League goal. The player would go on to make 82 appearances and scoring 25 goals.
Before retiring from the national team in 2012, he made 57 appearances for Nigeria and scored 21 goals. He’s the third highest scorer in the history of the Nigerian football team.
2) John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel is a name that most Premier League fans will know. The player was a stalwart in the Chelsea midfield for 10 years.
Mikel began a decade long career with Chelsea in 2006. The defensive midfielder made 249 appearances for the club and 80 appearances for the Nigerian national team.
His honours at Chelsea include two Premier League titles, four FA Cup wins, two League Cups, a Community Shield, Champions League, and Europa League winner’s medals. Mikel left Chelsea in 2016 for Chinese Super League team Tianjin TEDA.
1) Kanu Nwankwo
Kanu Nwankwo is easily one of the greatest players to come out of Nigeria – and also one of the most decorated. Kanu signed for Arsenal in 1999 from Inter Milan and quickly became a fans’ favourite.
In the 1999-2000 season, Kanu scored 17 goals in 50 appearances for the Gunners, including a 15-minute hat-trick against Chelsea. At Arsenal, Kanu had his greatest success. He made 119 appearances and scored 37 goals. He was part of the Arsenal Invincibles that won the league in 2002. During his time with Arsenal, Kanu would win the Premier League and the FA cup twice.
However, it was at this time when Thierry Henry became the first-choice striker for Arsenal. Kanu eventually left for West Bromwich Albion. making 58 appearances and scoring nine time. He spent two years at West Brom before moving to Portsmouth where he would spend another six years until he retired in 2012. He won his last trophy at Portsmouth – the FA Cup in 2008.