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10 Greatest Nigerian footballers of all time

Updated on October 18, 2011

Top 10 Nigerian Footballers of all time

This is a small compilation of the top 10 Nigerian footballers of all time in order of how great were their accomplishments in football both locally in Nigeria and globally as well. This list is at least the most authoritative at the moment and all the players on this list with the exception of Vincent Enyeama and Joseph Yobo have retired.

1. Kanu Nwankwo

On this list is Nigeria’s most talented footballer of all time. Nwankwo Kanu started his football career locally in the Nigerian league playing for Iwuayanwu National (now known as heartland FC) before being discovered and invited to play at the 1993 Under 17 junior world cup in Japan. Nwankwo Kanu distinguished himself in that competition emerging the most valuable player and went on to represent Nigeria at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where Nigeria won gold medal in the football competition and Nwankwo Kanu was voted the best player at the tournament. Kanu is a 2 time winner of African footballer of the year award and was once rated among the top 20 footballers in the world. By far Nigeria’s most decorated footballer, he has won the prestigious European cup competition now known as the European Champions league with Ajax Amsterdam, won the premiership and FA cups with arsenal among other awards. Other clubs he has played for include; Inter Milan and Hull city.

2. Rashidi Yekini

But for his abrupt and sudden drop in form, goal scoring phenomenon Rashidi Yekini could probably have been Nigeria’s greatest player of all time. He made history in 1994 when he became the first Nigerian to score in a world cup match when he scored against Bulgaria. That very year he was reigning African footballer of the year and Nigeria were reigning African Champions in what was supposed to be Africa’s greatest ever football team. Nigeria failed to equal Cameroun’s record quarter final from Italia 90. Yekini is Nigeria’s all time highest goal scorer in international matches having scored more than 30 goals, he was Nigeria’s greatest goal king scoring almost in every match he played for Nigeria during his international career.

3. Augustine Okocha

Nigeria’s most skillful dribbler, Okocha is also noted for his deft free kicks which made many of Nigeria’s opponents shiver upon his advance against them. More of a play maker than a goal scorer Okocha was noted for creating goal scoring chances for his team mates rather than scoring. Although never crowned African footballer of the year, Okocha is reputed to be one of Africa’s greatest players of all time. He will also be remembered for scoring the 1000th goal of the Africa cup of nations in 2004 in Nigeria’s match against eventual winners in that tournament Tunisia.

4. Uche Okechukwu

Nigeria’s famed gentle giant of defense, following the retirement of Stephen Keshi from International football, Uche Okechukwu became the skipper of the Nigerian super eagles. He remained a formidable force in the Nigerian backline stopping many of the world’s best players in their quest to put goals behind the Nigerian goal line. An illustrious career that spanned more than 15 years, he was reputed to have never earned a yellow card while playing for Nigeria. Okechukwu retired in 1998 following Nigeria’s disappointing performance at the world cup finals.

5. Finidi George

Once rated the best right wing player in the world, Finidi George will be remembered for setting up goal scoring chances for Nigerian attackers especially Rashidi Yekini. At his prime, Finidi George was a feared attacking midfielder tearing defensive flanks down, penetrating far into the opponent’s position and wreaking havoc. With his electric pace and deft dribbling skills and accurate passes, Finidi was by no means a push over.

6. Stephen Keshi

Nigeria’s longest serving skipper Stephen keshi was known for being highly charismatic often times leading the players against football administrators and even members of the press. On the field though he was an excellent marksman able to stop footballers of all class from getting past him and occasionally had goals of his own his most famous being a goal he scored for Nigeria against Senegal in Senegal 1992.

7. Emmanuel Amunike

One time African footballer of the Year, Emmanuel Amunike is best remembered for scoring Nigeria’s two goals in the final of 1994 African nations cup against Zambia which ensured that Nigeria became African champions for the second time. He also scored for Nigeria in the USA 1994 against Bulgaria where he got the third goal and against Italy in Nigeria’s 2-1 defeat to Italy.

8. Sunday Oliseh

Sunday is Nigeria’s finest defensive midfielder of all time and also Nigeria’s best passer of the ball of all time. He was noted for his absolutely accurate passes no matter the distance of his aim and also known for checking gifted dribblers in the mid field. He will be remembered in 1994 were he gave Diego Maradona a tough time in the mid field and his goal against Spain in France 1998 which was voted one of the best goals of the tournament.

9. Vincent Enyeama

Among all goal keepers Nigeria has ever had, Vincent Enyeama remains the most consistent. He has distinguished himself serving as Nigeria’s first choice goalkeeper since 2002. He remains one of Nigeria’s best footballers among the present crop of players and has only had limited success in his career except at club level while playing for Enyimba were he won two African Champions league titles with the club.

10. Joseph Yobo

Since the departure of Taribo West, Uche Okechukwu, Stephen Keshi and Isaac Okoronkwo Nigeria’s most reliable center back since 2002 has been Joseph Yobo. Presently captain of the Super Eagles, Joseph Yobo is a gifted marker and sweeper. He has played for clubs in the English premiership as well as in Turkey.


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      sunnybest 2 years ago

      the list is OK to my choice, but Sam okparaji should have really be in this list for sure.

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      Egbula miracle 2 years ago

      a good one but everyone had his or her own choice of list so I expected to see Sam okparaji. Joseph dusu.

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      ogunba 5 years ago

      i was expecting to see peter rufai

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      Saviour 5 years ago

      Am Zambian and i feared Babangida most...why he is not on the list??

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      Jimoh Oriyomi 5 years ago

      This is a good list of players but most of these players are the 1994 to 1998 Nigeria national term which includes Keshi. Please note that we have good players in the 80s’i.e Segun Odegbami, Christian Chukwu, Adokwe Amasiemaka etc also Felix Owolabi, Kunle Awesu, Henry Iwosu etc

      I think most of us love the 1994 term because they won the nation cup and qualified us for our first world cup. In the nearest future a bad Nigeria term shall take us to quarter final of the senior world cup and I shall wait for people judgment.

      Please note that Nigeria players of recent are undeveloped players, they did not followed the rudiment training to become a professional.

      Any foolish players who travel abroad claim professional which they are not. However, we are claiming the giant of Africa Football with few records to show for it when others African nation have more records than we do.

      Kindly check the number of times some of the African countries won the nation cup and compare to Nigeria. More so, a lot of people are saying that we have talented players all over the world but that is not factual.

      Please note that our heroes are players in the 80s’ where the 1994 – 1998 terms are good. Recently, we have no term and can not win any reasonable event in the nearest future until we stop immature transaction of teenagers’ footballer for professional appointment without proper home development.

      Most transfer are for selfish interest and it affecting our football.

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      Liam Hallam 6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      I thought I'd see Taribo West on the list too. I thought I might have seen Yakabu Aiyegbeni on there too.

      Who would you consider as a future talent? Victor Moses looks like he could be a fantastic player

      Would have liked to have seen some photo's of the players too to add a bit more to the hub.

    • keithmitchell5 profile image

      keithmitchell5 6 years ago from Indianapolis

      Was slightly surprised not to see Taribo West on the list. Love the Super Eagles - hope they do well in African Nations Cup & Brazil, 2014. Thanks.