5th. Stephen Keshi (CB)

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Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, is one of the very few footballers who’ve made their country proud both as player and a manager. Keshi started his playing career with former Nigerian Premier League club ACB Lagos in 1979.

The defender got his first major breakthrough when he joined the now defunct New Nigerian Bank FC in 1980. He would remain with the club for 4 years till 1984 & made his international debut for Nigeria at that time.

Keshi moved to Ivorian club Stade d’Abidjan in 1985 & a year later joined fellow Ivorian club Africa Sports d’Abidjan with whom he won his first piece of silverware – Cote d’Ivoire Premier Division in 1986.

Keshi had his first taste of European football when he joined Belgian club KSC Lokeren for the 1986/87 season. A good season saw many potential suitors for Keshi and he ultimately joined Belgian giants Anderlecht. Keshi would remain with Anderlecht for 4 season winning the Belgian First Division title once (1990/91) & the Belgian Cup twice (1987/88 & 1988/89). After leaving Anderlecht at the end of the 1990/91 season, Keshi would spend another three seasons in Belgium playing for RC Strasbourg and then with RWD Molenbeek.

The final years of his career saw Keshi playing for the likes of Central California Valley Hydra & Sacramento Scorpions in the US, before finishing up career with Malaysian club Perlis FA in 1998.

Must Read: 4 Best Football Betting Sites for Nigeria Bettors

Nigeria National Football Team Career

Keshi made a total of 61 appearances for the Nigerian National team, scoring 9 goals in them. Keshi captained the country in the 1994 World Cup where they made an round of 16 exit, his most notable achievement was guiding the country to their 2nd ever African Cup of Nations title in 1994. After retiring, Keshi got into coaching and achieved the unique feat of winning African Cup of Nations as both a player and manager, guiding Nigeria to the 2013 African Cup of Nations title.

He was in charge of the national side for 4 years from 2011 and to 2015. Earlier this year Keshi died of Heart Attack at the age of 54.

4th. Finidi George (RW)

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Finidi George started his professional career with former Nigerian 2nd division club Calabar Rovers. After spending a few more years in Nigeria playing for the likes of Heartland FC & Sharks FC, Finidi’s breakthrough came when he joined Dutch giants Ajax in 1993.

Finidi won the Eredivisie in each of his three seasons with club (1993/94, 1994/95 & 1995/96). The Winger also played a pivotal role in helping Ajax reach two consecutive Champions league finals in 1995 & 1996, winning the latter.

He also won the intercontinental cup & UEFA Super Cup while playing for Ajax.

The Winger joined La Liga side Real Betis in the summer of 1996 and helped the Andalusian club, finish 4th in 1996/97 season.

Finidi would remain with Betis till the end of 1999/00 season before moving to fellow Spanish club Mallorca to play for a single season.

Next stop in Finidi’s was the English Premier League where he played for Ipswich town for two season but was released after their relegation at the end of the 2002/03 season. Finidi returned to Mallorca in 2004 & retired at the end of the season.

Nigeria National Football Team Career

Finidi made his international debut for his country against Burkina Faso in 1991. He has won the African Cup of Nations once with his country in 1994 & also was part of the side that finished runners-up in the 2000 edition of the tournament.

Finidi also represented Nigeria in two World Cups – 1994 & 1998, retiring at the end of the 1998 tournament with a total of 62 international caps.

3rd. Rashidi Yekini (STR)

A professional career which lasted nearly 25 years, playing for as many 14 clubs in 7 different countries, Rashidi Yekini was without one of the most naturally gifted footballers Nigeria has ever produced. Yekini started his professional career with Nigerian club UNTL Keduna in 1981. The striker won his first piece of silverware while playing for the Shooting Stars SC, winning the 1983 Nigerian Premier League title. After leaving the Shooting stars in 1984, Yekini joined fellow Nigerian Club Abiola Babes and played for a total of three season with the club, winning the Nigerian FA Cup in 1985.

Rashidi Yekini’s first foray outside of Nigeria was with Ivorian club African Sports, with whom he played for three season between 1987 & 1990. During this time he would win the Cote d’Ivorie Premier Division twice (1988,1989) & the Cote d’Ivorie Cup once in 1989. Yekini’s most memorable years as a footballer came when played for Portuguese side Vitoria FC between 1990 & 1994. He helped the club gain promotion to the Primeira Liga in the 1992/93 season scoring a total of 34 goals in 32 games. Yekini followed it up with 21 goals for the side in the 1993/94 season thereby becoming the league’s top scorer.

Must Read: Bundesliga Betting Tips for African Bettors

Final Years

His performances with the Portuguese side along with National team helped him 1994 African Footballer of the Year award, the first win by an Nigerian. Yekini was signed by Greek club Olympiacos in the summer of 1994 however an unsuccessful stint saw him leaving the club after 12 months. His next few years as a player saw him struggling, at first in the La Liga with Sporting Gijon & then with Vitoria FC back in Portugal. The 1997/98 season with FC Zurich was a career revival of sorts for Yekini and he went onto have successful stints with the likes of Bizertin, Al-Shabab, Africa Sports & Julius Berger before retiring at the age of 41 with Nigerian club Gateway United in 2005.

Nigeria National Football Team Career

Yekini’s international record stands at 37 goals in 58 appearances. The striker played a major role in helping the Super Eagles winning the 1994 African Cup of Nations, he was the tournament’s leading top scorer & was named the player of the tournament. Yekini represented his country in both the 1994 World Cup & the 1998 World Cup, he became his countries’ first ever goalscorer during the 1994 World Cup, the images of him crying after scoring first in a 3-0 triumph against Bulgaria remains of the most touching moments in the game.

Yekini passed away in 2012 at the age of 48 after suffering from long term illness.

2nd. Jay-Jay Ok0cha (CAM)

Pic Cou: Getty Images -

Pic Cou: Getty Images – Shaun Botteril

The man who was so good they named him twice, Augustine Azuka “Jay Jay” Okocha was without doubt one of the greatest footballers, the continent of Africa has ever produced. Jay Jay made his professional debut with home town club Enugu Rangers at the age of 17. A few months into his senior career, Okocha had an opportunity to take part in a training session of German 3rd division club Borussia Neunkirchen while being on vacation.

Okocha impressed the manager of the German outfit so much so, he was offered a contract with the club the very next day. Jay Jay would play with the club for a season before moving up the ladder to play for Bundesliga 2 outfit, FC Saarbrucken for a couple of months. Okocha’s, career breakthrough came when he joined Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt in Dec,1991. He would remain with Eintracht for a total of four seasons putting in several memorable performances such as his goal against Karlsruher SC, were Okocha dribbled past several players in the box and scored past Oliver Khan in goal.

Jay Jay would leave the club in 1996 after falling out coach Jupp Heynckes & the club suffering relegation to the 2nd tier. Okocha joined Turkish side Fenerbahce in 1996 and would remain with the club for a total of two season making 62 appearances and scoring a total of 30 goals. During his time with the club Okocha also won his first major domestic silverware winning the now defunct Chancellor’s cup in 1998.

PSG & Bolton Wanderers

Okocha’s impressive performances for Fenerbahce, helped him attract attention from most of Europe’s elite. French club, PSG eventually secured the player for a whooping 24$ million in 1998, making him the most expensive African player at the time. In his four year stint with the club, Okocha won the Trophee des Champions Cup once in 1998 & the UEFA Intertoto Cup once in 2001.

Jay Jay left PSG in 2002 & joined Premier League club Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer. He became an instant hit at the club and within a season was presented with the captain’s armband. While he couldn’t win any piece of silverware while with Bolton, he did help them reach the finals of the 2004 League cup before eventually losing out to Middlesbrough.

After leaving Bolton in 2006, Okocha played in the Qatar league for a season with Qatar SC, before returning to England to play with Hull City in the Championship for a season.

Nigeria National Football Team Career

In a international career spanning 13 years, Okocha made a total of 75 appearances for the Super Eagles. He was a part of the Nigerian squad in three World Cups & was named in the squad of the tournament in the 1998 edition. Okocha played pivotal roles in Nigeria’s 1994 African Cup of Nations’ triumph & 1996 Olympic gold medal triumph. His illustrious career has seen him winning numerous individual accolades such as the Nigerian Footballer of Year – 7 times & the BBC African footballer of the year twice in 2003 & 2004.

1st. Nwankwo Kanu (CF)

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One of the greatest Africans to play the game – I.F.F.H.S

13th Greatest Player to have played for Arsenal FC – Fans Poll

African Footballer of the Year – 1996 & 1999

BBC African Footballer of the Year – 1997 & 1999

Nwankwo Kanu started his professional career with Nigerian club Heartland FC in 1992. He helped the club win the 1992/93 Nigerian Premier League title, by scoring a total of 15 goals in 25 games. His performances in the 1993 U-17 World Championships, which Nigeria won, helped him secure a move to Dutch giants in 1993 Ajax. Kanu’s appearances were limited to just 6 games in his first season with the club but over the next two years became a vital part of the team. With Ajax, Kanu won the Eredivisie thrice (1993/94, 1994/95 & 1995/96), Champions League, UEFA Super Cup & Intercontinental Cup once.

In the summer of 1996, Kanu joined Inter Milan for a fee of 4.7$ million. During his medical with Inter, a serious heart defect was identified and he was sidelined for nearly 8 months. Despite returning, Kanu could never find his self at Inter & was eventually sold to Premier League club, Arsenal in the winter transfer window of the 1998/99 season. The striker became an instant hit at the club, scoring a number of crucial goals coming off the bench. He would go onto play another 5 seasons with the club and was a part of Arsenal’s 2003/04 Invincibles. Kanu had won the Premier League title twice (2001/02 & 2003/04) & FA Cup twice (2001/02 & 2002/03) with Arsenal.

Later Years

At the start of the 2004/05 season, Kanu left Arsenal to join newly promoted Premier League club West Bromwich Albion. He would spend a total of two seasons for the club making 58 appearances & scoring 9 goals in total. Kanu helped the club in surviving the cut in the 2004/05 season but couldn’t do the same in the following season.

After leaving the Baggies at the end of the 2005/06 season, Portsmouth signed Kanu one a one year deal. After impressing in his first season for the club, Kanu would go onto play for another 5 seasons for the Pompey’s before retiring in 2012. The highlight of his career with Portsmouth was when he scored the winner in the 2007/08 FA Cup final, against Cardiff City.

Nigeria National Football Team Career

After helping the Nigerian U-17 side win the 1993 World Championships, Kanu made his senior team debut with the Super Eagles in 1994. Kanu helped Nigeria win the 1995 Afro-Asian Cup & 1996 Olympic gold medal. Kanu played in a total of 3 World Cups for Nigeria – 1998,2002 & 2010. He retried from the national team post their poor showing in the 2010 World Cup. By the time of his retirement he had amazed a total of 87 appearances for the Super Eagles, scoring a total of 12 goals.

Reference Resources

[1] 90min.com, 10 of the Greatest Nigerian Players in Premier League History, 2016

[2] salutesoccer.com, 15 Best Nigerian Footballers Ever, 2016