The Best Nigerian Football Players

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Nigerian players have a long history of competing at the highest echelons of the footballing world. Over the years, there have been many exceptional talents who’ve hailed from the ‘giant of Africa’, making their names as some of the finest footballers ever to have lived.

They’ve not only represented our homeland on the international stage, but many have also competed in the English Premier League and on behalf of many other European nations. In fact, so sought after are our players that more Nigerians are playing in this sphere than any other nationality.

Let’s take a look at the country’s rising stars, as well as some of the all-time best.

Alex Iwobi

Born in Lagos in May 1996, 24-year-old Alexander Chuka Iwobi plays for English Premier League club Everton, though much of his junior career was at Arsenal. He competed on the latter’s behalf for 15 years, from the tender age of eight until he broke with them in 2019. A member of Arsenal’s senior team from 2015 onward, he appeared 100 times, scoring 11 goals.

Iwobi recently proved his worth at his current team too, following an almost disastrous match against Rotherham. While Everton took home the win, fans were concerned that they required extra time to beat a club that is among the favorites at 5/6 to get relegated according to championship odds from Betfair. Thankfully, however, Iwobi rose to the challenge and helped Everton bounce back in their next game by scoring an impressive opener against the Wolves.

Also playing for Nigeria’s national team, Iwobi has scored seven goals to date during his 40 appearances, featuring in the 2018 FIFA World Cup lineup as well as the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. A solid scorer, his move to Everton is said to have been partly to increase his play-time. He’s arguably the strongest Nigerian currently competing in the Premier League, and with more opportunities to develop, his potential is limitless.

Stephen Keshi

One of the all-time best, Stephen Keshi sadly passed away in 2016, after suffering a heart attack at the age of 54. Gone but not forgotten, he was born in Lagos in 1962 and was a talented defender and magnificent center-back.

Coached by Christian Chukwu, Keshi followed in his idol’s footsteps by winning the Nations Cup in 1980. Widely referred to as the ‘Big Boss’, he was a natural leader who was immensely popular among his teammates. Not only a talented player but a wonderful coach as well, he was employed as the Nigerian manager in 2011, earning his team a win in the Nations Cup. He also headed the team during their 2014 World Cup attempt, where they made it through to the second round.

Fondly remembered by those within the sport, Keshi will forever be immortalized as an immensely talented player and coach, a true athlete, and an absolute gentleman.

Taribo West

Also hailing from Lagos, Taribo West is one of the finest defenders ever to have lived. Born in 1974, he was famed not only for his exceptional talent but his trademark zany hairstyles. He’s perhaps best remembered for his part in taking the Nigerian team to victory in Atlanta in 1996. Other incredible performances include his World Cup attempts in 1998 and 2002.

West began his international career in 1993, when he made his debut with Auxerre in France. Following this, he played for both AC Milan and Internazionale, before joining the Premier League with Derby County. Despite his exceptional talent, his time in England proved largely unremarkable.

This didn’t hinder his career, however, and West would go on to play for several different international teams throughout his remaining time as a player. Though he retired in 2008 at the age of 34, his impact on Nigerian football is undeniable, with a club named after him – a testament to his much-applauded efforts and exceptional prowess on the pitch.

Tell us, which other talented Nigerian players would you add to this list