5 Best Nigerian Players of All Time

Published on: 12 January 2022
5 Best Nigerian Players of All Time
Kanu Nwankwo

Ahead of the upcoming 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, we look at the some of the best Nigerian footballers ever.

From Finidi George to Nwankwo Kanu, Nigeria has produced some of the most exciting talents in the history of African football.

We have trimmed a pool of exceptionally talented Nigerian players to five and it is time to take a look at each one of them.

#5 Finidi George

Finidi George carries a reputation as one of the best Nigerian players of all time despite lacking the numbers to support that claim.

Known for his blistering pace and dribbling skills, George was a menace for the opposition backlines back in the days, helping Nigeria win the 1994 AFCON.

The Enyimba head coach, who made a name for himself at Ajax before moving to La Liga with Real Betis in 1996, registered 62 international appearances.

In addition to the abovementioned AFCON success, George featured for Nigeria in two World Cup finals.

#4 Sunday Oliseh

Regarded as one of the best African midfielders of all time, Sunday Oliseh earned worldwide recognition for his performances at Ajax, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund, amongst others.

Both physically and technically gifted, the deep-lying midfielder was a significant cog in Nigeria's Olympic squad that won the gold medal in 1996.

Despite scoring just three times in his 63 international outings, Oliseh will be remembered for his match-winning goal against Spain in the 1998 World Cup group stage, firing his nation to a stunning 3-2 win.

Four years after participating in Nigeria's 1994 AFCON success, Oliseh was named Africa's third-best player by the Confederation of African Football.

#3 Austin 'Jay-Jay' Okocha

One of the most iconic African players to have ever graced the game, Austin 'Jay-Jay' Okocha remains one of the most entertaining footballers to watch of all time.

Despite his at times lackadaisical attitude, Okocha was a generational talent, with his breathtaking ball control, use of feints and stepovers single-handedly driving up soccer streams adoption in Nigeria and to this date gathering a tonne of views on YouTube.

Indeed, he was a unique talent, which earned him a household status at Bolton Wanderers and Fenerbahce, with the Turkish fans still considering him one of the club legends.

For Nigeria, Okocha made 73 appearances, participating in his nation's 1994 AFCON triumph while winning the silver and bronze medals in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006.

#2 Rashidi Yekini

Rashidi Yekini did not boast Okocha's fancy footwork, but his scoring prowess was seemingly off the charts in his prime.

With 37 international goals to his name, Yekini is the nation's all-time top scorer, scoring at least 15 more goals than any other Nigerian footballer.

He also netted Nigeria's first-ever goal at the World Cup finals, doing so in a 3-0 win over Bulgaria in the 1994 edition.

During his outstanding four-year spell at Vitoria Setubal, Yekini was named the African Footballer of the Year in 1993.

Though he never managed to hit the ground running in European football again since severing ties with Setubal in 1994, his legacy continues to live long after his death in 2012.


#1 Nwankwo Kanu

For those who are enthusiastic about vintage video games, the name of Nwankwo Kanu needs no introduction.

They will remember the tall striker as a dynamic, too hot to handle, lethal finisher. Whether it was FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer, Kanu was always one of the hardest players to defend, and it was also the case in real life.

The 2000 AFCON runner-up deserved his video game card ratings for his eye-catching performances in the Premier League, with the likes of Arsenal and West Brom.

Not many players can say they have won the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal.

Yet, Kanu belongs to that distinguished group of footballers, while he also has two African Footballer of the Year awards in his trophy cabinet.