While the English Premier League has become renowned for its array of stellar imports, no African country has been more highly represented than Nigeria.
Since the inaugural 1992-93 season, when launching the Premier League entirely changed the outlook of English football’s top division, 42 Nigerians have represented a wide variety of clubs up until the recently concluded 2019-20 campaign.
Given that Leicester City are priced at 9/1 Premier League betting odds for the top four, Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho are two current Nigerian internationals who could star in the competition this season.
However, when it comes to being ranked amongst the greatest Nigerians to grace the Premier League, the Leicester City due still have plenty of work to do. Let’s take a look at some legendary players who made an unforgettable impression in the English top-flight.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) November 7, 2017
According to the record books, no Nigerian player has featured in more English top-flight games than Shola Ameobi, who registered a total of 297 Premier League appearances. 293 were in the famous black and white shirt of Newcastle United, along with 4 outings during a brief spell with Crystal Palace during the 2014-15 season.
Perhaps even more impressive is that Ameobi spent 14 seasons with Newcastle United, making a total of 393 appearances in all competitions, whilst also contributing 75 goals and 39 assists.
— Everton (@Everton) November 22, 2017
Yakubu Aiyegbeni was the classic journeyman striker in every sense, representing no fewer than 14 different clubs during his illustrious career, whilst also registering 57 appearances and 21 international goals with Nigeria. During his time in the Premier League he represented four different clubs – Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn Rovers.
Scoring a total of 95 goals with those four teams in the space of a decade, no other Nigerian player ranks higher than Yakubu in the Premier League. The closest were Nwankwo Kanu with 54 and Efan Ekoku with 52.
🗓 #OnThisDay, 21 years ago… we signed the one and only Kanu! 🇳🇬
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 15, 2020
While he might not have topped the scoring charts, there’s no doubt that towering striker Nwankwo Kanu will always remain a Premier League legend. After spells in Europe with Ajax and Inter Milan, it’s at Arsenal where he’ll always be cherished, before moving on to West Bromwich Albion and finishing his career with Portsmouth.
Blessed with 87 caps and 12 goals for Nigeria, while scoring is often the hallmark of any striker, often overlooked was Kanu’s ability to create goals. Indeed, he provided 29 assists in the Premier League and no other Nigerian has topped that statistic.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 22, 2020
Two players share the accolade of having won the Premier League twice. Kanu was the first to achieve that feat with Arsenal in 2001-02 as part of a league and FA Cup double, with his second league title coming in 2003-04. He also won the Charity Shield with the Gunners in 1999, plus the FA Cup again with Portsmoth in 2008.
Nevertheless, the most decorated Nigerian in English football is 33-year-old John Obi Mikel, who recently signed with Stoke City in the Championship, a league he had a brief spell in with Middlesbrough in 2019. During more than ten seasons with Chelsea, he won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup three times, plus the League Cup and Community Shield once apiece.
In addition, John Obi Mikel also won Champions League and Europa League titles with the Blues, making him the single most successful Nigerian player in English football, when it comes to his impressive haul of silverware.