May usually is the month of Champions, and while a pandemic pushes the world to its limits, Titles traditionally won in May will now be celebrated in June, some July.
Delay is not Denial. Nigeria as a nation understands the precedent with fourteen- and nineteen-year gaps in between her AFCON titles. However, several of her sons have triumphed at elite levels.
Here is the Ultimate XI of League Winners, restricted to Europe’s top 5leagues.
GK: Vincent EnyeamaNo Nigerian goalie is yet to be crowned champion in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Mazigo is in fact the only Nigerian goalie to have that prestigious honor as the only one to feature predominantly. Peter Rufai, his senior tendered for Deportivo La Coruna as the second choice, leaving a year before SuperDepor clinched the 1999/2000 La Liga title. Enyeama remains the only goaltender from Africa to go over a thousand minutes without conceding a goal in France.
DF: Taye Ismaila Taiwo (Olympique Marsielle, 2009/10)
Taye Bomber was a force of nature at Marseille, during his time in France, he’d secure the league title with Les Phoceens in 2010, banging crucial goals en route including strikes against Kante’s former club Boulogne and a thunderbolt against Olympique Lyon.
DF: Taribo West (AJ Auxerre, 1995/96)
The Pastor is often referred to as one of Nigeria’s finest center-backs. Characterized by his easily noticeable hairstyle; Taribo secured France’s Championnat before heading south to win Olympic Gold.
He made 22 appearances.
DF: Gbenga Samuel Okunowo (FC Barcelona, 1998/99)
The 2000 AFCON silver medalist alongside Emmanuel Amunike remain the only Nigerians to have played for the Catalan club, however, he remains the only Nigerian to win a La Liga title in 98/99 as he alternated with Dutch Defender, Michael Rezeiger. He made sixteen appearances.
DF: Victor Moses (Chelsea, 2016/17)
Reborn as a right wing-back, Moses would be a vital part of Antonio Conte’s title-winning team, scoring the winner against Tottenham in a thirteen-match winning run that all but meant the trophy returned to Stamford Bridge.
MF: Victor Ikpeba (AS Monaco, 1996/97)
The Prince of Monaco bagged thirteen goals and shone as the principality outfit consisting Henry, Trezeguet, and Ali Bernabia dazzled French’s top division. He would leave for Dortmund not long after and never found the same form.
MF: Sunday Oliseh (Borussia Dortmund, 2001/02)
Oliseh’s Black Yellow triumph made him the first African winner of the Bundesliga at the turn of the millennium as he followed the footsteps of national teammate Karibe Ojigwe, who won with FC Kaiserslautern. He made eighteen appearances that season, scoring one goal. It wasn’t enough to earn him a place on the 2002 World Cup squad.
MF: John Obi Mikel (Chelsea, 2009/10, 2014/15)
A Champions League winner, Mikel played fine roles in two title triumphs for the Blues. Making forty-three combined appearances over the successes. He wasn’t a goal scorer, but he did his bit protecting the back four, creating the base on which Ancelotti and Mourinho secured their titles.
MF: John Utaka (Montpellier HSC, 2011/12)
Shunted to the right, Utaka would score seven in thirty-five appearances in his partnership with Olivier Giroud and Souleymane Camara under Rene Girard as they eclipsed PSG’s big money guns in what was a fairytale. The club’s president Louis Nicollin dyed his hair after the unlikely success. Utaka is now the U19 coach for the French side.
FW: Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal, 2001/02, 2003/04)
Papilo remains one of Nigeria’s most successful exports, winning the Premier League, the Champions League, UEFA Cup, and Olympic Gold. He remains the only Invincible, scoring once in twenty appearances. His 2001/02 Premier League triumph also saw three goals in twenty-three appearances where he contributed more with winners against Sunderland and West Ham United.
FW: Obafemi Martins (Internazionale, 2005/06)
Obagol netted nine goals for Inter Milan in the 2005/06 season forming a devastating partnership with Adriano. Originally, Juventus would triumph, but when the Calciopoli scandal broke, Martins would bag his title after the Bianconeri and Rossoneri were found guilty of match-fixing allegations. It was his only title. He would head to Newcastle not long after.
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