In this post, we have compiled a list of the top 10 Nigerian soccer players of all the time. The list is in no particular order.
10 Best Nigerian Soccer Players of All Time
1. Nwankwo Kanu
Popularly known as Kanu or Papilo, Nwankwo Kanu is a retired Nigerian footballer that was known for his skills and goalscoring instinct.
He was born on the 1st of August, 1976 in Abia state. He played as a forward and featured for the likes of Iwuanyanwu Nationale, Dutch side Ajax, Inter Milan of Italy, and English clubs Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth. Kanu won a UEFA Champions League medal, a UEFA Cup medal, three FA Cup Winners Medals and two African Player of the Year awards amongst others.
He is one of few players to have won the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal. Kanu is regarded as one of the best players in African football history.
2. Austin Okocha
Austin “Jay-Jay” Okocha or Jay Jay Okocha as he is popularly called is another top Nigerian footballer of all time.
During his playing days, he featured as an attacking midfielder and he was known for his confidence with the ball, technique, creativity, and dribbling skills, as well as his use of feints, in particular the stepover.
Due to his skill, he was described as being ‘so good that they named him twice’ (a line immortalised in a terrace chant while Okocha played for Bolton Wanderers). He is a dual Nigerian-Turkish citizen, having acquired Turkish citizenship as “Muhammet Yavuz” while playing for Süper Lig team Fenerbahçe
3. Sunday Oliseh
Born Sunday Ogochukwu Oliseh, Sunday Oliseh is one of the best players in Nigeria of all time. During his active playing career, he played as a midfielder.
He was a physical yet technically gifted defensive midfielder. He played for the likes of AFC Ajax, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus F.C.
Oliseh played 63 international matches and scored three goals for Nigeria. He featured at the Football World Cups of 1994 and 1998. He also participated in the Olympic gold medal winning team of 1996. In 1998, Sunday Oliseh was voted Africa’s 3rd best footballer by CAF
He is mostly remembered for scoring the winning goal in the group stage match against Spain in the 1998 World Cup, as Nigeria prevailed 3–2.
4. Rashidi Yekini
Rashidi Yekini was a Nigerian footballer who played as a striker. His professional career, which spanned more than two decades, was mainly associated with Vitória de Setúbal in Portugal, but he also played in six other countries besides his own.
Yekini scored 37 goals as a Nigerian international, and represented the nation in five major tournaments, including two World Cups where he scored the country’s first-ever goal in the competition. He was also named the African Footballer of the Year in 1993.
In 1994, Yekini played for Olympiacos FC, but he did not get along with teammates and left soon after. His career never really got back on track, not even upon a return to Setúbal which happened after another unassuming spell, in La Liga with Sporting de Gijón. He also played with FC Zürich, Club Athlétique Bizertin and Al-Shabab Riyadh, before rejoining Africa Sports. In 2003, aged 39, he returned to the Nigerian championship with Julius Berger FC.
In April 2005, 41-year-old Yekini made another comeback, moving alongside former national teammate Mobi Oparaku to Gateway United FC.
5. Segun Odegbami
Segun Odegbami is another retired Nigerian footballer that makes our list of all-time great footballers in the country.
He played as a forward and won 46 caps and scored 23 goals for the National Team. Odegbami guided Nigeria to its first Africa Cup of Nations title at the 1980 tournament in his homeland. He was nicknamed Mathematical as he was famous for his skill on the ball, speed and precision of his crosses from the right wing. However, the original source of his nickname, Mathematical was because he attended and graduated from Nigeria’s premier technical institution; The Polytechnic, Ibadan where he studied Engineering.
He played for IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan his entire career, from 1970 to 1984. His last game was the 1984 African Champions Cup final defeat to Zamalek of Egypt.
6. Stephen Keshi
Stephen Okechukwu Keshi was a Nigerian football defender and manager. He played 60 times making him the nation’s second-most capped player at the time of his retirement.
Keshi represented the country at the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations, captaining the Super Eagles to victory in the latter. He also played club football in five countries, most notably Belgium, where he won the Belgian league championship with R.S.C. Anderlecht in 1991.
Keshi would later coach Nigeria, where he became one of only two people, along with Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary, to have won the Africa Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach.
7. Emmanuel Amunike
Emmanuel Amunike is former player of the Nigerian National team. He played as a winger and represented Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup.
Amunike’s football career was blighted by injury. He represented Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup.
In the 1996 December transfer window, Amunike was bought by La Liga giants FC Barcelona for $3.6 million, making his official debut on the 22nd in a 1–0 home win against Celta de Vigo and scoring on 15 March of the following year in a 1–0 success at CD Logroñés. His spell in Catalonia would be effectively ended in the 1997 off-season after he suffered a serious knee injury, following which he appeared very rarely for the club (only three league games in three full seasons combined).
8. Finidi George
Finidi George played as a right winger during his hey days. After making a name for himself at Ajax in the Netherlands – being a leading figure in a team which won eight major titles, including the 1995 Champions League – he played several years in Spain with Real Betis, also having a brief spell in England before retiring.
Finidi was an important member of the Nigeria team during the 1990s, appearing in two World Cups. He became famous at the 1994 World Cup for his goal celebration where he ran to the corner flag after scoring after Greece, knelt down, and imitated a urinating dog.
In 1996, Finidi moved to Spain and signed for Real Betis, where he netted in double digits in nearly every season, with the Andalusians finishing fourth in his first year, which also brought a Copa del Rey final loss against FC Barcelona (2–3 after extra time), where he scored before joining the club he was close to moving to Real Madrid, but the deal fell through.
9. Christian Chukwu
Christian Chukwu Okoro was born on the 4th of January 1951. He is a Nigerian football former player and former national team coach. He was a defender in his playing days and was responsible for leading the Nigerian national team to its first win in the African Nations Cup.
As a player, he became the captain of Enugu Rangers football club and the Nigeria national team in the late 1970s. He was the first Nigerian captain to lift the African Nations Cup trophy after a 3-0 victory over Algeria in the final of the 1980 tournament.
10. Muda Lawal
Mudashiru Babatunde “Muda” Lawal was a Nigerian footballer who played as a midfielder for both club and country.
He worked as a mechanic before his football talents were discovered, and made his national team debut in 1975. The same year, he joined Shooting Stars F.C. of Ibadan, where he would play for many years. In 1976, he helped the club to their first continental title, winning the African Cup Winners Cup – the first Nigerian team to do so.