Nigerians are arguably the most passionate lot among the African continent. They are also one of the more accomplished nations in the continent with three African Cup of Nations titles, last of which came in 2013.
Nigeria has also won the gold medal at the summer Olympics in 1996. In addition to the gold, the country has won the silver & bronze medals in the 2008 & 2016 summer Olympics’ respectively.
Super Eagles’ performances in the World Cup have been largely disappointing, their best ever finish till date has been a round of 16 exit, which they’ve achieved thrice, most recently in 2014.
Nigeria’s top flight domestic football league is called the Nigerian Premier League and is considered as one of the most competitive leagues in the continent. The country has produced its fair share of World Class talents over the years and in this article we will be listing our picks for the top 5 Best Nigerian football players in recent times.
10th. John Obi Mikel (CDM) – Nigerian Rising Star
John Michael Nchekwube Obinna popularly known as John Obi Mikel is the current captain of the Nigerian National Football team. Despite being one of the accomplished on this list, Mikel is arguably the most under utilized footballer from his country. Mikel kicked off his youth career with his hometown club & Nigerian Premier League side Plateau United in 2002.
The 16 year old grabbed the attention of European clubs after an impressive showing for the Nigerian U-17 team in the 2003 World Championships.
Mikel made the switch to Europe in 2004 to play for Norwegian club, Lyn Topp Football. Despite spending nearly 2 years with the club, Mikel could manage only 6 appearances in total for Lyn.
The 18 year old would once again impress for the Nigerian youth team, this time in the 2005 World Youth Championships helping his country in reaching the final, eventually losing to Argentina 2-1. Mikel was awarded with the silver ball while a certain Lionel Messi won the golden ball.
Chelsea & Nigerian National Team Performance
John Obi Mikel would make the switch to then Premier League champions, Chelsea in the summer of 2006. Despite having some trouble adjusting to the club at first, Mikel would soon cement himself as an integral part of the Chelsea squad under Mourinho and he would remain so over the next 10 years.
With Chelsea Mikel would win the Premier League title twice, FA Cup four times, League cup twice, Champions League & Europa League once. Mikel made his debut for the Nigerian national side in 2006 and since then has amazed over 70 international caps for Nigeria.
With Nigeria, Mikel won the 2013 African cup of Nations & was named in the team of the tournament. Mikel has also won the 2016 Olympics bronze medal with the national side.
Must Read: These are the very Top 5 Best Football Players in Nigeria All-Time
9th. Vincent Enyeama – Best Goalkeeper Nigeria
The 34 year old, recently retired Nigerian international is the only goalkeeper to have made our list. Enyeama started his professional career with his hometown Ibom Stars at the age of 17. After a couple seasons for Ibom, Enyeama would make the switch to Nigerian giants Enyimba International.
He played a crucial part in helping Enyimba start the dominance of Nigerian football & would remain with them for three years. After winning every possible title with Enyimba, Enyeama would leave the club on a free transfer at the end of the 2003/04 season to join fellow Nigerian club Heartland F.C.
Enyeama’s stay with Heartland FC would only last for a single season, before he would move to Europe to play in the Israeli Premier League. He would spend of a total of 6 seasons in Israel, two years at Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv FC & then four seasons with Hapoel Tel Aviv FC.
It was during his time with Hapoel that Enyeama would grab international attention while playing for the Nigerian national side. Enyeama provided an incredible display of determination, as he single handily fended off the Argentine attack time and again in their 1-0 defeat in the group stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Soon after his heroics in the World Cup Enyeama was signed by French Ligue club Lille. Though Enyeama struggled during his initial days at the club, the player forced his way into the first team and today is regarded as one of the finest keepers in the world. In his 17 year professional career so far, Enyeama has won the Nigerian Premier League thrice with Enyimba, the Israeli Premier League once with Hapoel, the CAF Champions League twice with Enyimba & the Israeli domestic cup thrice with Hapoel.
Nigerian National Team Performance
Enyeama made his international debut on May,2002 in a friendly against Kenya. By the time Enyeama would retire from international duty on October, 2015, the player had crossed over a 100 international caps making him the most capped Nigerian in history. Enyeama has featured in a total of three World Cups & captained his side during their 2014 World Cup campaign. The only international trophy Enyeama has won with Nigeria was the 2013 African Cup of Nations, where they beat Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final.
8th. Taribo West (LB) – Most Enigmatic Player
Taribo West maybe remembered for his colorful hairstyles & personality, but he is without doubt of the greatest talents the country has ever produced.
West was an youth academy product of Nigerian club Sharks FC but made his professional debut, with another Nigerian club Obanta United. The first few years of his career has him playing for as many as 4 clubs in a span of 3 years.
West’s fortunes turned for the better when he joined French club AJ Auxerre in 1993 after a series of trials. Over the next four years, West would go onto play an integral part in the club’s success which includes, winning the Ligue 1 title once in 1995/96 & the Coupe de France twice in 1993/94 & 1995/96.
At the end of the 1996/97 season, West would join Italian giants Inter Milan on a 4 year deal and had a bright start to his career. Taribo was a part of Inter’s 1997/98 UEFA Cup winning squad and was send-off in their 3-0 triumph in the final against Lazio.
West couldn’t carry on his good work and eventually found himself on the bench more often than not.
After being benched for the 1st half of the 1999/00 season, West made a winter transfer to Inter’s arch rivals Milan but failed to adapt and found his appearances for the Rossoneri’s limited to just 4 overall.
The summer of 2000 saw West coming to the Premier League to play for Derby County on loan stint. West was instrumental in helping the Rams survive the cut that season. Despite Derby offering him a contract at the end of the season, West would leave England but went onto play for several other clubs across the globe before finally retiring in 2008.
Nigerian National Team Performance
West’s international career despite his success was limited to just 42 caps, he was a crucial member as the country won the gold in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. West also played his part when his country finished runners-up in the 2000 edition of the African Cup of Nations. Taribo’s final appearance for his country was in a friendly against Libya in 2005.
7th. Sunday Oliseh (DM)
Sunday Ogorchukwu Oliseh was an former Nigerian International who till recently was in charge of the Nigerian national team.
Oliseh was an youth academy product of Bridge FC, formerly known as Julius Berger Lagos. With in a year of making his senior team debut for the Bridges, Oliseh was presented with an opportunity to move to Europe to play in the Belgium professional league.
Oliseh joined Belgian club RFC Liege in 1990 and would remain with them till 1994. The midfielder at just 17 years of age adapted well to his new surroundings, and became a first season regular in his second season with the club. Oliseh played key role for the club till his departure at the end of the 1993/94 season.
Over the next three seasons, Oliseh would play both in the Italian Serie A with AC Reggiana & then in German Bundesliga with FC Koln.
It wasn’t until Oliseh joined Ajax in 1997 that he tasted his first piece of silverware. Oliseh won the Eredivisie & Domestic Cup double in his first season with the club & ended his stay with Ajax with another domestic cup title in the 1998/99 season.
After leaving Ajax, Oliseh returned to the Serie A to play for Juventus & after a season once again returned to Germany, this time to play for Borussia Dortmund.
Germany Bundesliga & Nigerian National Team Performance
Oliseh would spend the next five years of his career in Germany, initially playing for Dortmund for two seasons and then for VFL Bochum for two season, before once playing one more season for Dortmund. During this period Oliseh would win the Bundesliga title once with Dortmund in 2001/02 season.
Oliseh winded up his professional career in 2006 after playing a single season in Belgium for KRC Genk.
Oliseh was capped a total of 63 times by the Nigerian national team. The midfielder was a part of Nigeria’s 1996 Olympics gold medal winning squad & also 1994 African Cup of Nations winning squad.
He also represented Nigeria in World Cups and is still remembered for his 30 yard winners against Spain in the group stages of the 1998 World Cup.
6th. Segun Odegbami (RW) – Honorable Mention to the Best
Patrick Olusegun Odegbami, nicknamed “mathematical” is without doubt one of the greatest Nigerians to ever play the beautiful game.
Odegbami spend his entire 14 year career with Nigerian club Shooting Stars SC and made his professional debut with them in 1970 at the age 18.
Odegbami earned the nickname mathematical not only because of his quick feet and astounding skills on the ball, he also held an engineering degree from one of Nigeria’s premier institutions.
During his 14 years with the club, Odegbami won the Nigerian Premier League thrice (1976, 1980 & 1983), the Nigerian FA Cup thrice (1971, 1977 & 1979) & the CAF Cup Winners’ Cup Once in 1976.
Nigerian National Team Performance
Odegbami made a total of 46 international appearances for Nigeria scoring an impressive tally of 23 goals. Though he failed to make a single World Cup appearance, he was instrumental in Nigeria’s 1st ever African Cup of Nations triumph in 1980, when they beat Algeria 3-0 in the final.
Odegbami made an unsuccessful bid for FIFA presidency in 2015.
 sportsmole.co.uk, Top 10 Nigerian Footballers of all Time, 2016
 naij.com, 10 Greatest Nigerian Players Of All Time, 2016