Picking a Nigerian All-Time Premier League XI

Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom on 1st October 1960, with 2020 Nigerian Independence Day marking 60 years of Nigerian sovereignty.

Nigeria has produced many of Africa’s best footballers over the years and plenty of those have plied their trade in the Premier League at one time or another.

Here’s a look at an all-time Premier League Nigerian XI.

Carl Ikeme (GK)

Having spent most of his Wolves career in the Championship, Carl Ikeme has actually played more international games for Nigeria (10) than he has in the Premier League (1). But he is a long-serving Wolves club hero, and also the only Nigerian goalkeeper to play in the Premier League.

Ikeme was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2017 and retired from football a year later when Wolves returned to the top flight, by then in complete remission after intense treatment.

Victor Moses (RB)

Victor Moses has played in the Premier League for Wigan, Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham, while he has also played across Europe on loan at Fenerbahce and Inter. He will forever be remembered for the surprise defining role he played in Chelsea’s 2016/17 title winning season.

Moses, who grew up in England after fleeing Nigeria when his parents were murdered, reverted from his usual position as a winger to occupy a much deeper wing-back role.

Jospeh Yobo (CB)

Joseph Yobo is the joint most capped Nigerian international of all time, with 101 appearances for the Super Eagles to his name. He also played at three World Cups during his career and was an Africa Cup of Nations champion in 2013.

At club level, Yobo spent eight years at Everton during a successful period for the Toffees when they were regularly finishing in the Premier League’s top six.

Taribo West (CB)

Very few Nigerian defenders have graced the Premier League over the years, but Taribo West did spent the 2000/01 season on loan with Derby and remains an enduring cult figure of the Super Eagles golden generation that emerged in the mid-1990s.

West, who had won an Olympic gold medal with Nigeria in 1996 and was named in two World Cup squads during his career, helped a struggling Derby avoid relegation.

Celestine Babayaro (LB)

Left-back Celestine Babayaro was only 16 years and 84 days when he made his Champions League debut for Anderlecht in 1994 and was still a teenager when Chelsea paid over £2m for him in 1997.

Babayaro was a regular starter in the Chelsea side that ran Manchester United and Arsenal closer than people remember in the 1998/99 title race, while he also won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and FA Cup with the club. He later spent three years at Newcastle.

Wilfred Ndidi (CM)

Wilfred Ndidi is a major reason why Leicester have re-established themselves as a top Premier League side in the years since a shock title win in 2015/16.

The Foxes paid £17m to sign him from Belgian side Genk in January 2017 and he has gone on to become one of the Premier League’s best box-to-box midfielders in the three years since. He had rarely missed a game until a recent injury layoff.

Mikel John Obi (CM)

Mikel John Obi’s arrival in England was initially the source of much heated debate after Manchester United thought they had bought him from Norwegian club Lyn, but the player later claimed he was pressured in signing for United and had actually wanted to join Chelsea.

Once the issue was resolved, Mikel went on to play 249 Premier League games for Chelsea and 372 for the club all competitions, winning eight major trophies in 11 years.

Jay-Jay Okocha (AM)

Jay-Jay Okocha will forever be remembered as one of the most skilful and entertaining players to grace the Premier League, a talisman of the Bolton side that punched well above its weight in the top half of the table.

At that time, Okocha was also Nigeria captain and had earlier been a leading member of the Super Eagles golden generation and an Olympic gold medalist.

Yakubu (FW)

Yakubu scored goals for every Premier League club he played for during an impressive top flight career in England that lasted nearly 10 years.

The ‘Yak’ was first picked up by Portsmouth from Israeli club Maccabi Haifi en-route to winning promotion and later scored the goals that kept Pompey up. He later joined Middlesbrough and Everton for ever increasing transfer fees, before a final resurgence with Blackburn.

Nwankwo Kanu (FW)

Previously a Champions League winner with Ajax another of the 1990s Nigerian golden generation, Nwankwo Kanu enjoyed his best season with Arsenal in 1999/00 when he scored an iconic hat-trick against in a 3-2 comeback win.

Kanu left the Gunners in 2004 at the end of the ‘Invincibles’ season and went on to play with relative success in the Premier League for West Brom and Portsmouth.

Efan Ekoku (FW)

Efan Ekoku made his Premier League bow for Norwich in 1993, scoring the Canaries’ first ever European goal that season – but he is probably more famous for a five-year spell with Wimbledon, during which the Dons enjoyed several top half finishes.

Ekoku was not part of the golden generation that emerged from the 1996 Olympic squad, but he did go to the 1994 World Cup with the Super Eagles and had earlier won the Africa Cup of Nations.

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Source : 90min