Since the English Premier League (EPL) inception on 15th August 1992, more than 40 Nigerian footballers have participated.
Twenty-five out of them have featured in the English league, including England’s elite football league, but several competitions have brought great players, goal strikers, and entertainers onto the top 10.
Highlighted below are the top 10 Nigerian footballers who fly the green, white-green in the English League.
1. Kanu Nwankwo
Kanu, popularly known as ‘Papillo,’ is a noteworthy Nigeria professional footballer, a philanthropist who has played in several English leagues.
He’s a valuable member of the Arsenal squad. He also won the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, and Dutch side Ajax at Inter Milan of Italy before identifying with north London’s Arsene Wenger.
In February 1999, when he signed up with Arsenal as an Olympic Gold medal winner, he already acquired an inspiring haul of trophies and wards.
Five years later, after he exited North London, he won additional 2 Premier League Awards, 1 Community Shield, and 3 F.A. Cup medals in 2018. Kanu boasts of other impressive accolades such as BBC Footballer of the year in England and 2 African Player of the year awards.
According to the EPL records, Kanu’s overall appearance in the English league totals 315; 118 out of it were substitutes at which he scored 54 goals in total (plus 29 assists).
As a mercurial genius and a football’s ultimate cult hero, Kanu’s legacy lives on in the English League, especially in Arsenal to date.
2. Efan Ekoku
Efan Ekoku is a powerful Nigerian striker and a former renowned football player. He has played for several English football teams, including Wimbledon, Sutton United, Bournemouth, Dublin City, Sheffield Wednesday, Grasshoppers, and Norwich City.
Not to mention, Ekoku was the first-ever Nigerian great footballer to represent in the most-watched English league, EPL, in April 1993 though he represented Norwich City.
African Cup of Nation award is another accolade he obtained that worth credit, although he made his highest rank debut with yellow of the East Anglian football club. He spent most of his EPL career representing Wimbledon from 1994 – 1999.
The Premier League Hall of Fame recognizes him for his exceptional records. In the history of the Premier League, Efan Ekoku has scored a total of 52 goals, marking him the 3rd highest Nigerian goal scorer.
From his debut in the English League till 2004, he has a total of 335 appearances (13 appearances for Dublin City), scoring 164 goals in all.
3. John Mikel Obi
John Michael Nchekwube Obinna, popularly called Mikel Obi, is a Nigerian defensive midfielder who started his football career with a local Nigerian team.
Today, he’s recognized globally as a Chelsea Legend representing many other international football clubs in English Leagues.
Between 2004 and 2006, he played for Lyn, a Norwegian football club where he appeared six times, scoring one goal.
After turning down England’s Manchester United F.C., he signed with Chelsea in 2006, where he made a legacy that lives on, appearing severally with goal scores. He featured for the Blues, primarily as a squad player in 10 seasons of the Premier League.
Before joining Middlesbrough Football Club North Yorkshire, England, in 2019, he played for the Chinese league Tianjin TEDA F.C. from 2017–2018, where he made 31 scores with three goals.
From 2020–2021, Mikel signed with Stoke City and has since played for Middlesbrough.
Currently, he plays for Kuwait SC as the number 12 experienced midfielder. The total of his scored scores with the English league is 249.
4. Daniel Amokachi ‘the Bull’
Daniel Owefin Amokachi is a popular name to many Premier League fans across the globe. He played for the 1994 World Cup, where he represented the Everton SC for 3 million pounds.
His remarkable talents and exceptional skills in football brought him to fame in EPL. Among his accolades is the 1999 Semi-Final F.A. Cup, during which he won over Tottenham with two goals, hence triumphed in the F.A. Cup finals.
The notable international leagues he played for include Club Brugge, Everton, Beşiktaş, Colorado Rapids. In all, he scored ten goals in a total of 43 appearances.
5. Finidi George
Finidi, known by the nickname “The Gazelle,” is one of the best Nigerian players in the EPL list, counting among the winning heroes in Premier League history.
Finidi has played with Ajax, Betis, Mallorca, Ipswich Town, and Mallorca in different international countries at different seasons of the English league.
In 2001, Finidi played in the debut EPL with Ipswich Town at the Amsterdam Arena for 3.1 million pounds.
What’s more, he has shown off his football talent at different places of the world, making two scores to win over Derby County at Portman Road during his debut.
6. Celestine Babayaro
Celestine Hycieth Babayaro, now an ex-professional footballer, is among the top 10 excellently in the English league.
As a teenager, Babayaro was signed to play for Chelsea by Ruud Gullit at 19 in April 1997 for 2.25 million pounds. His performance was indeed fantastic and continued as he grew older.
In 2001 and 2002, Austin Babayaro won double accolades, which are F.A. Cup and Charity Shield, respectively. After few years, he joined the Roman Abhramovic’s revolution, where he played well but lost his win to Wayne Bridge because of Jose Mourinho’s appearance.
He played up to 200 times for Chelsea before signing with Newcastle United in 2005. Also, he played for Anderlecht, LA Galaxy, making 179 appearances with five scores in all.
7. Osaze Peter Odemwigie
Peter Odemwingie ranks the 5th highest scorer in the history of the Premier League with a remarkable impact winning even at deadline calamities.
He kicked off the Premier League campaign in 2010/11 with the West Brom, after which he signed with the Midlands side, where he played for three seasons.
The teams he has played for include La Louvière, Cardiff City, West Bromwich Albion, Lille, Lokomotiv Moscow, Rotherham United, Stoke City, Madura United. Odemwingie scored a total of 125 goals in 414 appearances.
8. Yakubu ‘yak’ Aiyegbeni
Yakubu’ yak’ Aiyegbeni is a former Nigerian footballer who has made extraordinary performances in UEFA Champions League and other English Leagues.
Notably, this young man is the 3rd highest African goalscorer in the English Premier League with a total of 96 goals, according to history.
His overall appearances in the premier league match are 250 with the Blackburn Rovers Portsmouth, Everton, and Middlesbrough.
9. Joseph Yobo
Among the top 10 Nigeria footballers who have graced the English Premier League, Yobo Joseph is ranked the 5th highest with total appearances of 220, 8 goals with two assists, and 67 clean sheets.
He has played with Norwich City league and Everton, participating actively in every minute of Everton football games from 2006 to 2007. While gracing the EPL seasons with Everton, he played alongside Joleon Lescott as defensive team-mate partners.
When Phil Neville was away, Yobo became the captain of Toffees club, where he defended them so well, emerging as the first-ever African footballer to wear the armband for the club.
Even at 40, Yobo continued making remarkable accolades. According to records, he returned in 2014, signing with Norwich City on a loan deal for EPL sessions, where he earned his last eight appearances.
10. Austin “jay jay “Okocha
Augustine Azuka Okocha, professionally known as “Jay-Jay” Okocha, is a Nigerian footballer known for exceptional dribbles, tricks, and flicks.
He began his career in football many decades ago, but his debut with English League was in 1990 with Borussia Neunkirchen, which lasted for two years before he joined the Eintracht Frankfurt from 1992 – 1996.
After leaving this German sports club, he played for the Turkish professional club, Fenerbahçe, for two seasons and scored 34 goals.
Other English leagues that have experienced the talent Okocha has in football include Paris Saint-Germain (1998–2002), Bolton Wanderers (2002–2006), Qatar’s club (2006–2007), and Hull City (2007–2008).
He played remarkably well in the seasons he covered will all the leagues. However, he got a fantastic honor in November 2003 for Bolton Wanderers during their first Cup final in 9 years, winning the player of the Month award.
In total, Okocaha, who’s noted as the most skillful Nigeria EPL player, made 454 appearances in the EPL, scoring 89 with 11 assists.
Current Nigeria EPL Players
According to Nigeria’s Complete Sports (C.S.) all-sports daily update, the five Nigerian elite footballers currently featuring in the Premier League campaign include:
∙ Isaac Success
∙ Kelechi Iheanacho
∙ Odion Ighalo
∙ Alex Iwobi, and
∙ Wilfred Ndidi.
Who is the most famous Nigerian footballer?
Kanu Nwankwo is the most prominent Nigerian athlete who has won gained medals in several competitions, including 3 Eredivisie titles and many accolades in Champions League, UEFA Cup, and other football tournaments.
Who is Nigeria’s most successful player?
Joseph Oluwaseyi Temitope Ayodele, known as Joe Aribo, is Nigeria’s most successful player and professional footballer.
In the recent post by CIES Football Observatory, Aribo is the Nigerian football champion who has gained the highest medals and similar prizes in domestic league matches.
How many Nigerians play for England?
In 2019, Office for National Statistics estimated the number of Nigerian footballers in England to be 215,000.
In contrast, the Council of Europe reported approximately 100,000 Nigerians who play in the U.K. There’s likely to be an underestimation since Nigerians born outside the country and illegal migrants were not on the above list.
Who is the first Nigerian to play in the Premier League?
On record, the first Nigerian footballer to play in the Premier League is striker Efan Ekoku – Efangwu Goziem Ekoku in full. He was born on 8th June 1967 in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, England.
Many Nigerian footballers have participated in the English Premier League, but the ten listed here are the most notable.
They left a profound, exceptional mark in the Premier League, making Nigeria stand out above other African countries in football.