As the most popular sport in Nigeria, football is followed with a fiery passion by fans of the Super Eagles. And given that it’s the most populous nation on the African continent, with more than 216 million people calling the country home, it’s no surprise that Nigeria has produced some truly world-class players through the years.
From Jay Jay Okocha (so good they named him twice) to Nwankwo Kanu to Obafemi Martins to John Obi Mikel, Nigeria has always been blessed with excellent options across the pitch. But which of the country’s current stable can be considered as on a par with those greats of the game? We take a look at some of the biggest and best Nigerian footballers plying their trade today.
It’s a simple fact of life: Kelechi Iheanacho scores goals wherever he goes. The prolific 25-year-old has had the misfortune of playing second fiddle to two supremely talented strikers at both of his clubs (Sergio Aguero at Man City and Jamie Vardy at Leicester) in the English Premiership, but he’s always come up with the goods when called upon. The ability to score vital goals from the bench has stood Iheanacho in good stead until now and at 25 years old, he’s in the prime of his career. It’s time to turn that promise into realised potential.
Just 23 years old, Victor Osimhen is already one of the most exciting talents in the Super Eagles lineup. He broke through onto the international footballing scene in 2019-20 with a stellar season for Lille, which prompted Italian heavyweights Napoli to break their club transfer record with a €70 million bid for him. After scoring 24 goals in 51 games for them (and a hugely impressive 15 goals in 22 games for his country), rumors have abounded that he might grace the English Premier League, with bookmakers such as sportybet naming Arsenal as the favorites to snap him up.
Drafted in to replace the outgoing N’Golo Kante at then-Premier League champions Leicester City, Wilfried Ndidi was always going to have big boots to fill. Nonetheless, the size of the challenge has not daunted him and over the course of five seasons with the club, he’s proven himself to be one of the most capable and commanding defensive midfielders in the division. Although hampered by injury at times, Ndidi always makes a difference when he’s included in the starting lineup.
25-year-old midfielder Joe Aribo was a crucial part of the Rangers side which claimed the Scottish Premiership title in 2020-21 and enjoyed an exhilarating run to the Europa League final last year. His composure on the ball, alongside his incisive runs and his intelligent link-up play, made him one of the standout performers of that tournament and unsurprisingly, he has been linked with a move to a bigger club this summer. He certainly deserves it.
These four talented footballers illustrate what a bright future lies ahead for the Super Eagles – especially since all of them are 25 years old or younger. Though they may have unfortunately missed out on Qatar 2022, they’ll surely menace the international stage one day soon.