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Five of the best Nigerians in Premier League history

Nigeria has produced more Premier League players than any other African nation, with several Super Eagles stars having impressed in English football across the last three decades.

Nigeria are one of Africa’s most successful nations, with only two countries having reached the Africa Cup of Nations final on more occasions than the three-time continental champions.

More than 50 Nigerian players have played for Premier League clubs, but we’ve attempted to list the five most influential.

Five of the best Nigerians in Premier League history:

NwankwoΒ Kanu

Nwankwo Kanu is remembered as one of African football’s greatest exports and was a trailblazer for the continent’s finest talent in the nineties.

Kanu signed for Ajax in 1993 after impressing for Nigeria’s victorious side at the u-17 World Championships that summer, before going on to score 27 goals in 74 games for the Dutch side. He won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax in 1994/95, but moved on to sign for Inter Milan the following year after more success on the international stage.

Kanu formed part of the Nigeria team that won gold at the 1996 Olympics to earn a move to Inter, but a heart defect detected soon after his San Siro switch halted his career with the club.

He joined Arsenal in 1999 after only a dozen appearances for Inter and became a cult figure in north London. Kanu scored 44 goals in 198 appearances for the Gunners and twice won the Premier League title, with his highlights including a sensational hat-trick as Arsenal came from two goals down to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The two-time African Footballer of the Year later had spells with Portsmouth, with who he won the FA Cup in 2008, and West Brom in the Premier League.

Iconic Performances: Kanu hat-trick seals famous comeback win at Stamford Bridge

Jay-Jay Okocha

Jay-Jay Okocha proved to be a sensational signing for Bolton Wanderers, at a time when Sam Allardyce’s plucky outfit had a habit of luring continental stars for an Indian Summer in Greater Manchester.

Okocha had established himself as one of Africa’s biggest talents during spells at Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce and Paris Saint-Germain, before swapping the bright lights of Paris for the Trotters on a free transfer.

The free-spirited midfielder became an instant hit, where his carefree football and repertoire of outrageous skills delighted the Bolton fanbase. Despite fitness issues, Okocha helped lead Bolton away from relegation trouble with a combination of tricks, flicks and stunning strikes.

He made 142 appearances for the club and captained Bolton to the 2004 League Cup final, before a short, less successful, spell at Hull City before retirement.

Midfield Magicians: The Greatest Showman, Jay-Jay Okocha

Yakubu

The highest scoring Nigerian in Premier League history and fourth-highest scoring African, Yakubu was a regular goal threat during a long career in English football.

Portsmouth was Yakubu’s first stop in the Premier League, where he scored 42 goals in 92 games, including a four-goal haul against Middlesbrough. That performance helped persuade Middlesbrough to sign the stocky centre-forward and he helped the Teesiders to the 2006 UEFA Cup final during his time at the Riverside.

Everton then made Yakubu their record signing in an Β£11.25m deal in 2007, but fitness issues plagued the Nigerian after a positive first season at Goodison Park.

Yakubu scored 95 goals in 252 appearances in the Premier League and is one of just five players to score hat-tricks in the division for three different clubs, having hit trebles for Blackburn, Everton and Portsmouth.

He is also one of just two players – alongside Robbie Fowler – to have scored more than one ‘perfect’ (right foot, left foot, header) hat-trick in the Premier League.

The players to have scored a hat-trick for three Premier League clubs

John Obi Mikel

Chelsea won a controversial transfer battle to sign John Obi Mikel, beating Manchester United to the signature of the in-demand midfielder.

Mikel had caught the attention of Premier League clubs at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship, before joining Chelsea. He spent 11 years with the west Londoners and won a wealth of honours, including two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, the Champions League and Europa League.

Mikel – who was named in the Team of the Tournament as Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013 – played 372 games for Chelsea in all competitions. Only three players have ever made more than Mikel’s 91 appearances for the Nigerian national team.

Wilfred Ndidi

Wilfred Ndidi had the unenviable task of replacing N’Golo Kante at Leicester City, with the defensive midfielder drafted in to replace Kante, a year after the latter’s move to Chelsea.

Ndidi impressed as the new enforcer in the Foxes’ engine room however, and topped the Premier League for tackles in each of his first two seasons in the division. He ranked second and fourth for tackles over the following two campaigns, emerging as one of the Premier League’s most prolific ball-winners at the King Power Stadium.

He formed part of the Leicester team that won the FA Cup for the first time in 2020/21, before beating Manchester City to lift the Community Shield later in the year.

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Ndidi’s influence waned as Leicester were relegated last season, but he has remained with the Foxes in their bid to bounce back this season.

Read –Β Player Profile: Bundesliga beast, Victor Boniface

Read more –Β 90s Hitmen: A unique and unpredictable trailblazer, Nwankwo Kanu


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