The CIES Observatory recently ranked Nigeria as the African country with the highest export rate of players to Europe. The magic number was 399. Since Clemens Westerhof opened the doors to Europe, many have left for greener pastures, playing at the highest level.
Here is Nigeria’s ultimate UEFA Champions League XI consisting of players to have made the most appearances in Europe’s premier competition.
GK: Vincent Enyeama
Enyeama made 14 Champions League appearances for Hapoel and Lille Metropole over three seasons. The AFCON winner conceded twenty goals while scoring two times in the process, both from the spot. He also cited them as his most memorable goals.
DF: Taye Ismaila Taiwo
2005 U20 Bronze Ball winner Taye Bomber packed a powerful shot in his left foot, scarring oppositions from deadball scenarios and whenever he found himself around the box. His 35appearances in Europe’s premier competition were for Dynamo Kyiv, Olympique du Marseille and AC Milan, where he scored one goal.
DF: Efe Ambrose
Ambrose won the AFCON in 2013 and while doing that was a part of Celtic’s all conquering side. His 28 appearances yielded a goal, and he would be forever be remembered for his brave shift in the team that bested Barcelona 2-1 in November 2012.
DF: Celestine Babayaro
Cele was in a league of his own, making a century of Premier League appearances. However, his 21 Champions League appearances for Anderlecht and Chelsea yielded two goals and was part of Claudio Ranieri’s 2003/04 semifinalists. He would leave Chelsea for Newcastle not long after.
DF: Chidi Odiah
The bulky defender donned the Green and white at three AFCONS, carting home the Bronze medal in two. Odiah all the while made his mark at CSKA Moscow in Russia which earned the attention of Eagles handlers. He racked up 25 appearances and scored no goals in the Europe’s Elite event.
MF: John Obi Mikel
A Mikel is the other Champions League winner on this list. Commanding the Chelsea rearguard as they triumphed in Bayern’s backyard in 2012. That night was the most special of his 59 Champions League nights, the second highest tally by a Nigerian. It yielded no goals.
MF: Yussuf Atanda Ayila
The eternal number 13 racked up 26 Champions League appearances for Dynamo Kyiv, providing the cover Oleg Blokhin’s men needed to attack.
MF: Ahmed Musa
Another CSKA man. The 2013 AFCON winner and Current Super Eagles captain is the only active Eagles player on the list, making 29appearances across multiple seasons for Leicester and CSKA Moscow. He achieved the Quarter Final with the Foxes, his deepest run in the competition and has scored six goals in all.
MF: Nwankwo Kanu
Papilo remains Nigeria’s Champions league appearance record holder with 60 across two clubs. He triumphed with Ajax in 1995 under Louis van Gaal and had several nights to remember with Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, including a 5-1 thumping of his former clubside Inter Milan. The lanky forward only scored five goals in all.
FW; Julius Aghahowa
The first of two summersault merchants in attack, Aghawonder, remembered for his iconic celebration in the 2002 FIFA World Cup was a revelation for Shaktar Donetsk in his time there, racking 26appearances and scoring 7goals in the UEFA Champions League, mostly in qualifying to secure progression to the main event. His goal against Barcelona in a 2-nil group stage win in the 2004/05 season, however, holds a special place in his heart.
FW: Obafemi Akinwunmi MartinsObagol remains Nigeria’s all-time Champions League top scorer with 10 strikes, achieved in thirty-six appearances across three clubs (Inter Milan, Wolfsburg, Rubin Kazan) proving himself in the warmth of the SanSiro alongside Adriano and the dreaded cold of Kazan against Barcelona.
Obagol remains alongside Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema, and Bojan Krkic, the only ones to score in three editions of Europe’s premier competitions as teenagers.
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