Number of Nigerian Players to have played in the Premier League: 42
Most appearances: Shola Ameobi (299)
Most goals: Yakubu (95)
Appearances (Top 25): Shola Ameobi 299, Kanu 273, Yakubu 252, John Obi Mikel 249, Joseph Yobo 228, Victor Moses 220, Victor Anichebe 204, Celestine Babayaro 180, Efan Ekoku 158, Peter Odemwingie 129, Jay-Jay Okocha 124, Dickson Etuhu 111, Alex Iwobi 100, Kelechi Iheanacho 97, Obafemi Martins 92, Wilfred Ndidi 88, Ade Akinbiyi 76, John Utaka 66, Odion Ighalo 55, Isaac Success 49, Daniel Amokachi 43, Sone Aluko 42, Danny Shittu 40, Seyi Olofinjana 37, Finidi George 25
Goals (Top 25): Yakubu 95, Kanu 54, Efan Ekoku 53, Shola Ameobi 43, Peter Odemwingie 37, Obafemi Martins 28, Victor Anichebe 27, Victor Moses 20, Odion Ighalo 17, Kelechi Iheanacho 16, Jay-Jay Okocha 14, Ade Akinbiyi 11, Alex Iwobi 11, Daniel Amokachi 10, Joseph Yobo 8, John Utaka 7, Finidi George 6, Celestine Babayaro 5, Dickson Etuhu 4, Brown Ideye 4, Wilfred Ndidi 4, Victor Obinna 3, Seyi Olofinjana 3, Sone Aluko 2, Ahmed Musa 2
Assists (Top 25): Kanu 29, Victor Moses 26, Shola Ameobi 20, Alex Iwobi 19, Victor Anichebe 18, Peter Odemwingie 18, Yakubu 16, Kelechi Iheanacho 12, John Obi Mikel 11, John Utaka 10, Odion Ighalo 6, Obafemi Martins 6, Wilfred Ndidi 5, Victor Obinna 5, Sone Aluko 4, Hope Akpan 4, Celestine Babayaro 3, Dickson Etuhu 3, Jay-Jay Okocha 3, Taye Taiwo 3, Brown Ideye 2, Isaac Success 2, Joseph Yobo 2, Julius Aghahowa 1, Ade Akinbiyi 1
All data correct upto the end of the 2018-2019 season
One of the most popular African countries in the Premier League era has been Nigeria. There has been a steady influx of Nigerian players in the first 27 years of Premier League football, with no fewer than 42 representatives. Some have had great success and become Premier League champions, whilst others didn’t have the impact they hoped for.
The first Nigerian player to make a significant impact on the Premier League was Efan Ekoku. He joined Norwich City in 1993 and enjoyed a productive spell on these shores. He first came to attention by becoming the first player to score four goals in a Premier League match when he ran riot at Goodison Park in September 1993. Ekoku got four of Norwich’s five on the day in a 5-1 win at Everton. He transferred to Wimbledon in October 1994 and became a fans favourite with the Dons supporters until their relegation in 2000.
Ekoku was joined in the Premier League in the summer of 1994 by Daniel Amokachi who signed for Everton after his excellent performances for The Super Eagles at the 1994 World Cup finals. Under-pressure Mike Walker signed him for £3 million and it took a while for Amokachi to settle on Merseyside. He started to flourish in the second half of the season. He helped the Toffees win the FA Cup final and scored 10 times in 43 appearances before leaving for Besiktas in 1996. Although he had his outstanding games and became a cult hero, there was a feeling that he hadn’t quite manage to justify the transfer fee Walker paid for him.
Nigeria’s leading marksman in the Premier League is Yakubu. He made his Premier League debut in 2003 with Portsmouth and went on to play for Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn Rovers in the top-flight. Yakubu often finished in the top 10 goalscorers for the league in most seasons, making a big impact for all of the clubs he represented. He was part of the Everton side that finished fifth in 2007-2008 and reached the UEFA Cup final with Middlesbrough in 2006.
Nigeria has plenty of title winners among their ranks. John Obi Mikel wasn’t always the most popular player at Chelsea but he did provide nearly a decade of service to the west Londoners. He won the Premier League title with the Blues in 2010 and 2015. He would play alongside Victor Moses at Chelsea. After a series of loan periods away at Liverpool FC, Stoke City and West Ham United, Moses came to the fore in Antonio Conte’s debut season as Chelsea manager. Utilised as a wing-back, Moses was one of the success stories of Chelsea’s 2016-2017 title-winning side. Kanu is also a title winner, part of the Arsenal sides that won the championship in 2002 and 2004. He produced some outrageous moments of skill during his Arsenal days. He also provided the Premier League with one of the most famous misses against Middlesbrough whilst playing for West Bromwich Albion in November 2004.
The player with the most appearances from Nigeria is Shola Ameobi. Ameobi made 295 appearances for Newcastle United over 14 years and also added another four appearances to his tally in 2015 during a short period with Crystal Palace. Ameobi was often the perfect foil for Alan Shearer and a capable understudy, even if he never managed double figures in any top-flight campaign he took part in. He did though boast an unbelievable record in the Tyne & Wear Derby against Sunderland, scoring doubles in home victories over the Black Cats in 2005 and 2010.
Bolton Wanderers supporters will never forget Jay-Jay Okocha. Okocha was one of the most skilful players in the Premier League during his four-season stay in Lancashire, scoring 14 goals in 124 appearances. His crucial goals and matchwinning contributions were vital to the Trotters staying in the top-flight in 2002-2003.
Other notable Nigerian players include Odion Ighalo. No player in England’s top four leagues scored more league goals than Ighalo in 2015 and he had a prolific period at Watford alongside Troy Deeney. Peter Odemwingie had a lively spell with West Bromwich Albion which ended acrimoniously after famously pulling up in Queens Park Rangers’ car park in January 2013, believing he was about to sign for them, even though he hadn’t received permission to talk to the club! There are five Nigerian players currently in the Premier League. Their current charge is led by Alex Iwobi, who made his 100th Premier League appearance for Arsenal in May 2019.