Top 10 Nigerians to ever play in the Premier League

The Premier League is arguably the best league in the world with over 4.3 billion audiences across the world. Over the past couple of years, fans have been treated to breathtaking football and have witnessed greatness from stars across the world.

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The league has a strong following in Nigeria, with Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United the clubs with most followers, although Manchester City is also getting popular following their recent success.

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One of the reasons why the league is so popular among Nigerians is because of the success of present-day and former Super Eagles players.  Much of Premier League success can be attributed to players from different countries including Nigeria. And that’s why we’ll be taking a look at the best Super Eagles players to have played in the Premier League.

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Efan Ekoku (Norwich and Wimbledon): Though he was born in Britain, Ekoku was the first Nigerian to play in the English Premier League. He played for Norwich and Wimbledon during his time in the English top flight and was a cult hero for both clubs.

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He arrived at Carrow Road when Norwich were in the thick of the title race under the management of Mike Walker. Ekoku scored three goals in ten games in what was left of that exciting campaign, and although Norwich were beaten to the title by Manchester United, Ekoku and his teammates had achieved a third-place finish and qualified for the UEFA Cup.

The former Super Eagles star moved to Wimbledon in 1994 and stayed for five years scoring 21 goals. At the end of his Premier League career, Ekoku scored 52 goals in 160 appearances.

Peter Odemwingie (West Brom, Cardiff, Stoke City)

Odemwingie who earned 63 caps for the Super Eagles had a decent Premier League spell. At West Bromwich Albion he was named the Premier League Player of the Month on 3 occasions.

Peter scored 36 Premier League goals. Odemwingie won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. He made a total of 129 Premier League appearances scoring 36 goals.

Joseph Yobo (Everton and Norwich): The former Super Eagles captain joined Everton from French Ligue 1 club Olympique Marseille in 2002 to become David’s Moyes first signing.  He stayed at the Goodison Park for eight years scoring eight goals before departing for Fernabache in 201o.

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However, made a return to the Premier League in 2014 with Norwich where he made a total of eight appearances. At the end of his Premier League career, Yobo made 228 appearances making him one of the Nigerians with most appearances in the League.

Obafemi Martins (Newcastle and Birmingham): The Weapon of Mass destruction as he is fondly called arrived on the English soil in 2006. The Nigeria international joined Newcastle from Inter Milan in a 10 million pounds move.

He went on to make eighty-eight appearances for the Magpies scoring 22 goals before departing in 20o9 for Wolfsburg. But he returned to the English topflight in 2010 with Birmingham helping them win the league cup scoring the winning goal for the Saints against Arsenal.

Odion Ighalo (Watford): The current Nigeria number 9 moved to the Premier League in 2015, joining Watford from Spanish La Liga side Granada. He was an instant hit with the Hornets scoring 15 goals in 37 league appearances.

However, he suffered a second season syndrome scoring just one goal in eighteen league appearances. It proved to be his final season at the Vicarage Road as he moved to the Chinese Super League the following season.

Victor Moses — Wigan, Stoke, Liverpool, Chelsea and West Ham: The former Super Eagles star played for many clubs in his Premier League career. The former Crystal Palace youth player started his top-flight career with Wigan where he made a total of 74 appearances scoring eight goals.  He joined Chelsea in 2012 but it was not all rosy as he was loaned out for most of his career.

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The Fernabache star was loaned out to clubs like Liverpool, West Ham and Stoke City during his time at the Blues. However, he was given a chance to prove himself when Antonio Conte arrived in 2o16 and it was when his quality showed albeit in a different position. Playing as unorthodox right back, the 27-year-old helped Chelsea win the League title in Conte’s first season.

He continued in the role in the Italian’s second season but the Blues could not replicate the success of the previous season though they still won the FA Cup. Conte was subsequently sacked with Maurizio Sarri replacing him. The arrival of the former Napoli boss proved to be the end of Moses Chelsea’s career as the Italian favoured a 4-3-3 formation. The former Nigerian international found opportunities limited under the Italian and was subsequently loaned 0ut to Fernabache in January 2018.

John Mikel Obi: Arguably the most successful Nigerian to play in the Premier League. He joined Chelsea in 2006 after a long battle between the Blues and Manchester United. He went on to make 249 premier league appearances for the Blues winning two league titles, three FA Cup, One Europa League and One Champions League title. He left the Blues in 2016 as a cult hero.

Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Everton): The highest scoring Nigerian in the history of the Premier League playing for mid tables clubs like Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Everton and Blackburn Rovers.  Born 22 November 1985, the Yak had a successful spell in the English Premier League. So far, he holds the record of the Nigerian highest goal scorer in the Premier League with 96 goals. Yakubu represented Nigeria at the 2000    Olympic games, 2002 Nations Cup in Mali and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Austin Jay Jay Okocha: So good they named him twice. Okocha joined Bolton in 2002 and he instantly became a cult hero at the club.  His debut season, despite being hampered by injuries, made him a favourite with the Bolton fans, with the team printing shirts with the inscription “Jay-Jay – so good they named him twice”. He steered the team away from relegation with seven goals, including the team Goal of the Season in the vital league win against West Ham United.

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This was voted Bolton’s best Premier League goal in a fans vote in 2008. The next season saw Okocha receive more responsibility as he was given the captain’s armband following Guðni Bergsson’s retirement.

As captain, he led Bolton to their first cup final in nine years where they finished runners-up in the 2004 Football League Cup to Middlesbrough FC.  He left the club in 2006 as a club legend. He made 124 league appearances for the Trotters scoring 14 goals and contributing 14 assists.

Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal, West Brom and Portsmouth):  The lanky forward is the reason why most Nigerians became a Premier League fan. He joined the Gunners in 1999 from Serie A side Inter Milan for £4.15 million and it proved to be a bargain.

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His most prominent moment in an Arsenal shirt came in the Gunners 3-2 victory over London rivals Chelsea. The former Nigerian international was brought on for the Gunners who were trailing 2-0 with just fifteen minutes to go. And the former African footballer of the year duly delivered as he scored a hat-trick to secure a remarkable victory for Arsenal. He won two league titles and two FA Cups during his time with the Gunners.

He made a total of 119 league appearances for Arsenal scoring 30 goals before departing for Westbrom in 2005. He made a total of 78 league appearances for the Hawthorns scoring 12 goals. He joined Portsmouth in 2006 winning the FA Cup with them in 2010.

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The former Eagles captain is rated 13th in the Gunners’ all-time top 50 best players in a list that has the likes of Marc Overmars, Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, among several other world-class stars that featured for the North-London side.