Best Super Eagles Players of All Time

While the likes of Ademola Lookman, Samuel Chukwueze, and  Victor Osimhen are putting up a show of talent in the field of play across Europe, it is only right to say that this impressive show of talent in football did not start today.

There are a handful of retired Super Eagles legends who also played some beautiful football in Europe and eventually brought the glory home.

In this article, we’ll look through these legends and rank them according to their individual on-field achievement during their time of play.

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See List of Players

1. Nwankwo Kanu

Nwankwo Kanu

Nwankwo Kanu’s career is like a highlight reel of footballing glory. “Papilo” played for giants clubs like Ajax, Inter Milan, and Arsenal, lifting trophies like the Champions League, Premier League, and FA Cup during his time on the pitch.

Kanu’s magic wasn’t limited to the big clubs. At Portsmouth, he became a hero again, scoring the only goal in both the semi-final and final to win them the 2007 FA Cup.

His international career was equally decorated, he was instrumental in Nigeria’s victory at the 1993 Under-17 World Cup, and he brought home the gold medal at the Olympic Games 3 years later.

His performance against a heavily favored Brazil in the Olympics was so impressive, that earned him the African Player of the Year award in 1996 and an 11th-place finish in the Ballon d’Or voting! He even bagged a second African Player of the Year award in 1999.

Interestingly, he played in 6 AFCON tournaments, making 87 appearances and scoring 12 goals for Nigeria but did win the  Africa Cup of Nations trophy.

2. Jay-Jay Okocha

Jay-Jay Okocha

This guy’s a legend, not just in Africa, but arguably one of the most gifted players ever to grace the beautiful game. He started out in Nigeria with Enugu Rangers, but it was his move to Germany and Eintracht Frankfurt that really put him on the map.

After doing so well in Germany, Okocha moved on to Fenerbahce in Turkey. His talent was undeniable, and Paris Saint-Germain in France came knocking in 1998, splashing a then record £14 million for an African player to bring him to the Parc des Princes.

While PSG weren’t quite the superstars they are today, Okocha’s time there was anything but dull, he even played a big role in mentoring a young Ronaldinho, helping to improve the Brazilian’s skills.

Okocha later came over to Bolton Wanderers. Here, he helped the club achieve new heights, becoming a hero to the fans.

Internationally, he debuted for Nigeria in 1993 with a bang, scoring a stunning free-kick in just his second game (against Algeria) that was crucial in their qualification for the 1994 World Cup.

He went on to make 73 appearances for his country, netting 14 goals, lifted the Africa Cup of Nations trophy in 1994, and a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics.

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3. Rashidi Yekini

Rashidi Yekini

Painting the Net Green was his hubby, Yekini was a striker with a striking difference, and the first-ever Nigerian to be named African Player of the Year in 1993.

With his 37 goals for the National Team, he is still standing tall as the highest goal scorer. Yekini started out tearing up the Nigerian league, playing for clubs like Abiola Babes, Shooting Stars, and UNTL Kaduna.

But his talent took on a bigger stage. That’s when he made a move to Africa Sports in Ivory Coast, proving he could score anywhere.

Portugal was his next stop and he became the league’s top scorer in 1994 with 21 goals. Yekini didn’t stop there. He played a key role in helping Nigeria qualify for their first-ever World Cup appearance in 1994.

And guess what? He scored the country’s very first goal at the World Cup and his iconic celebration of grabbing the net in pure joy after his goal against Bulgaria became one of the most unforgettable images of his entire career.

4. John Obi Mikel

John Obi Mikel

Each time people mention John Obi-Mikel, I easily link him with the 2005 World Youth Championship, in which a young Mikel led Nigeria to a surprising runner-up finish.

He went on to become a key player in the Chelsea team during their dominant period in English football. We’re talking about the team that won the Champions League, Premier League, and FA Cup.

His impact wasn’t limited to club football. Mikel played a starring role in Nigeria’s 2013 Africa Cup of Nations victory, adding another major trophy to his cabinet.

He even captained the Super Eagles to a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, having previously won silver in 2008.

Mikel went on to make about 89 appearances for Nigeria before hanging up his boots after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

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5. Joseph Yobo

Joseph Yobo

Yobo holds the record (shared with Vincent Enyeama, the goalkeeper at the time) for most appearances for the Nigerian national team, with surprising 101 caps

He first turned heads playing for the Nigeria U20 team at the 1999 World Cup, which they hosted. Two short years later, he was playing for the senior side.

As the then captain of the Super Eagles, he helped the team to their 2013 AFCON victory in South Africa, adding a continental title to his impressive resume.

He also represented Nigeria at 2 World Cups and 6 AFCON tournaments. Club-wise, Yobo found a home away from home at Everton, spending a massive decade at Goodison Park. There, he became a rock at the back, a constant presence for the Toffees.

6. Vincent Enyeama

Vincent Enyeama

Vincent Enyeama wasn’t just any goalie; he was a wall for Nigeria’s national team and a club legend for sides like Enyimba.

He rose to fame with Enyimba, leading them to back-to-back CAF Champions League wins in 2003 and 2004, a huge feat in African football.

Enyeama got his first taste of the international stage at a young age, playing against England in the 2002 World Cup.

Even though it wasn’t a crucial game for Nigeria, Enyeama stole the show. He stopped shots left, right, and center, denying England’s star-studded attack that included players like Michael Owen and David Beckham.

This wasn’t a one-time thing. Enyeama went on to make about 101 appearances for Nigeria, becoming their most-capped player.

Enyeama’s heroics didn’t stop there, he was a key part of the Nigerian team that conquered the 2013 African Cup of Nations, even making it into the Team of the Tournament.

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7. Stephen Keshi

Stephen Keshi

First things first, RIP to Stephen Keshi, who was a true Nigerian football legend. Not only did he star on the pitch, but he also became a hugely successful manager for the national team.

His journey mirrored that of his mentor, Christian Chukwu. Chukwu led Nigeria to victory in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) back in 1980, and 14 years later, it was Keshi’s turn to lift the trophy as captain of the Super Eagles.

Both Keshi and Chukwu were defensive rocks for Nigeria, but Keshi earned himself the nickname “The Big Boss” for his commanding presence on and off the field. That leadership quality became even more apparent when he transitioned into coaching.

In 2011, Keshi took the reins of the Nigerian national team. He achieved something truly historic: becoming the first person to win the AFCON as both a player and a coach.

Keshi’s coaching success didn’t stop there. He also led the Super Eagles to the second round of the 2014 World Cup, a huge accomplishment for Nigerian football. It was the first time they’d reached that stage since 1998.

8. Sunday Oliseh

Sunday Oliseh

A beast in the center of the park, Oliseh wasn’t afraid to get stuck in, but he also had the skill and tricks to surprise everyone with a killer pass.

This talented Nigerian played for some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Ajax, Juventus, and Borussia Dortmund. He wasn’t just there to make up the numbers, Oliseh helped his teams gather the trophies, including the Dutch league title (Eredivisie), the German league title (Bundesliga), and the UEFA Cup.

He was a key part of Nigeria’s golden generation, playing a starring role in their 1996 Olympic gold medal win and their 1994 African Cup of Nations victory.

He even graced the World Cup stage twice, in 1994 and 1998, where he netted what is still remembered as one of the greatest World Cup goals ever. Oliseh wore the Nigerian jersey with pride for a total of 63 matches, finding the net on three occasions.

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