They are a talented country that delivers entertaining football, and Nigeria have recently become a regular presence at major tournaments. A number of their players feature in top leagues around Europe, and many have been employed in the English Premier League.
Let’s take a look at the best of those players, and remember the mark they made on England’s top flight division.
How many Nigerian Players have won the Premier League?
At the end of the 2022/23 season, three Nigerian players had Premier League winners medals. Nwankwo Kanu, Mikel John Obi and Victor Moses are the players in question. Kanu won the EPL with Arsenal, while Obi and Moses both won their titles while at Chelsea.
Top 12 Nigerian Footballers in the EPL History
A highly skilled attacker who could score spectacular goals, Nwankwo Kanu is arguably the most entertaining Nigerian player to feature in the Premier League. After spells with Ajax and Inter Milan, Kanu arrived at Arsenal in 1999 and spent the next five years in North London.
Kanu’s spell with the Gunners was successful, as he won the EPL title in 2002 and 2004. He also won the FA Cup three times, twice with Arsenal and once with Portsmouth.
Mikel John Obi
Another Premier League title winner, Mikel John Obi spent a productive eleven years at Chelsea. The defensive midfielder won 11 major trophies at Stamford Bridge, including those two EPL titles and the UEFA Champions League in 2012.
He also appeared 91 times for Nigeria and was part of the squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013.
More commonly known as Jay-Jay Okocha, this Nigerian attacking midfielder spent four years at Bolton Wanderers between 2002 and 2006. He was one of the most skillful players in the Premier League at the time, and was a constant threat from set pieces.
Okocha was part of a star-studded Bolton team that reached the League Cup final in 2004. He made 124 league appearances for the Trotters, scoring 14 goals.
A strong and competitive striker, Yakubu Aiyegbeni played for no fewer than seven English clubs in his career. His most productive spell came in the 2011/12 season with Blackburn Rovers, where he scored 17 goals in 30 league games.
Yakubu also played in the EPL with Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Everton, and was part of the Portsmouth team that won the First Division title in 2003.
As we saw earlier, Victor Moses won the Premier League with Chelsea, but this wasn’t his first English club. The winger made his professional debut with Crystal Palace in 2007, and later spent two years with Wigan Athletic.
Chelsea acquired Moses’ signature in 2012, and he would spend the next nine years on their books. Not only did he win that Premier League title in 2016/17, Moses also won the FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League twice. During his time at Chelsea, Victor Moses went on loan to other clubs, before eventually transferring to Spartak Moscow in 2021.
One of the earliest Nigerian players to feature in the English Premier League, Celestine Babayaro joined Chelsea in 1997. He spent eight years at Stamford Bridge before signing for Newcastle United.
A versatile player who could cover at left back or midfield, Babayaro didn’t win the EPL, but he did claim four major trophies at Chelsea, including the FA Cup in 2000.
Centre back Joseph Yobo was a great servant to English football and, in particular, to Everton. He initially joined the Toffees on loan from Marseille in 2002, before making the deal a permanent one a year later.
Yobo slotted in comfortably to the Everton defence, and he would remain there until 2012. He was a composed player on the ball, and was a first choice for most of his time at Goodison Park.
Joseph Yobo made 233 appearances for Everton before he was sold to Fenerbahce in 2012. He later made a brief return to England with Norwich City.
Nigerian international forward Peter Odemwingie played for three English clubs, but he will mostly be remembered for his time with West Bromwich Albion. The player joined the Baggies from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2010, and he became a productive striker in front of goal.
In his first two seasons at West Brom, Odemwingie returned a healthy record of 25 goals in 62 Premier League games. In the 2012/13 campaign, those stats dipped considerably, and he was sold to Cardiff City at the end of the season. Peter Odemwingie also played in the Premier League for Stoke City and, while his scoring record never fully recovered, he remains one of the most productive Nigerian players to have featured in the EPL.
Another Nigerian striker to have graced the Premier League, Shola Ameobi enjoyed a long, 14-year spell with Newcastle United. He joined the Magpies as a youth team prospect and made his professional debut in 2000.
Ameobi was a tall and physically strong forward who returned a healthy, if unspectacular scoring record at St James’s Park. He scored 79 goals in 397 appearances across all competitions. Ameobi also had a loan spell at Stoke City, before playing on permanent deals with Crystal Palace and Bolton Wanderers.
Striker Efan Ekoku was one of the first Nigerian players to make an impression in English football. The striker was born in England, but was of Nigerian heritage and he went on to make six senior appearances for the Super Eagles.
Ekoku started in non-league football with Sutton United, before Bournemouth gave him his first professional contract. He later played in the Premier League with Norwich City, Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday. Efan Ekoku was never a prolific striker, but he scored important goals in the top flight.
After playing as a back up to some top strikers, Kelechi Iheanacho is finally getting an extended opportunity in English football. The forward made his professional debut with Manchester City, but his route to the first team was blocked by the great Sergio Aguero.
Iheanacho then moved to Leicester City where he was initially behind Jamie Vardy in the pecking order. With Vardy closer to retirement, Kelechi Iheanacho is now getting a chance to prove his worth. He already has three major honours, including an FA Cup win with Leicester in 2021.
Another talented Nigerian attacking player, Alex Iwobi is currently playing for his third Premier League team. He began his professional career with Arsenal in 2015, before moving to Everton four years later. Iwobi is now with Fulham, having signed with the Cottagers in 2023.
While he’s struggled to settle with his clubs, the player is an important part of the Nigerian international set up, and their belief in him shows his quality. Alex Iwobi has won three trophies in English football, including an FA Cup victory with Arsenal in 2017.
While not every player on this list earned major honours, they all made their mark on English football. Each brought Nigerian flair to the Premier League, while enjoying impressive international careers at the same time.
With Nigeria performing well at AFCON 2024, the scouts will be looking for more talent, so who will be next to join the EPL?