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Nigeria has always produced great talents over the years with a lot of them leaving lasting impressions on the football world. Europe has been a great hunting ground for Nigerian players, with the likes of Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and Rashidi Yekini playing for some of the biggest clubs over time.
Players like Victor Osimhen, Paul Onuachu and Terem Moffi are currently flying the county’s flag in Europe, racking up the goals in the big leagues. However, they still have some way to go to match up with the numbers of some of the legends of the Nigerian game.
Below is a list of some of the Nigerian players who have scored the most goals in Europe:
Nwankwo Kanu is an icon of Nigerian football having burst onto the scene at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1993. He is widely regarded as one of the most talented players the country has ever produced and alongside a lengthy career in the Super Eagles, also made his mark in Europe.
Beginning his European adventure in the Netherlands in 1993, Kanu spent three seasons with Ajax, scoring 25 goals in 54 appearances. He also won the Eredivisie and the UEFA Champions League.
Moving to Inter Milan in 1996, Kanu did not have the best time with the Italian giants. He was diagnosed with a heart condition and only managed one goal in 12 matches at the San Siro.
Kanu’s most successful spell in Europe was in England where he spent five seasons at Arsenal, scoring 30 goals in 119 appearances. He also played for West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth, scoring seven and 20 goals respectively.
Overall, Kanu scored 83 goals across five clubs in Europe and is fondly remembered by the fans.
Victor Ikpeba came to the limelight during the 1989 FIFA U-17 World Cup and went on to represent Nigeria across several age grade competitions. He eventually featured for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, playing in several AFCON tournaments and World Cups and was named African footballer of the year in 1996.
Ikpeba was named African footballer of the year during a six-year spell with French side Monaco, where he scored a total of 55 goals in five seasons. Prior to his move to France, he spent four years with Belgian club RFC Liege, where he found the net 27 times.
Several short spells at Borussia Dortmund, Real Betis and Charleroi saw Ikpeba score eight goals across the three clubs. He featured for a few North African and Middle Eastern clubs but ended his European career with 90 goals.
Due to his enduring popularity among football fans in Nigeria, the former striker was chosen as the face of leading Nigerian betting operator Bet9ja, who boast one of the best betting apps available in the country as seen on comparison site Betting Apps.
Richard Owubokiri popularly known as “Ricky” is a former Nigerian striker who played for almost two decades. Beginning his career at Sharks of Port Harcourt, his European adventure took a short detour to Brazil where he played for America-RJ and Vitoria.
Owubokiri eventually arrived in Europe, playing only one season with French club Laval where he scored 10 goals. After switching to Metz and scoring eight goals, he earned a move to Portugal, where he truly found his feet.
In Portugal, Owubokiri played for Benfica, Estrela Amadora, Belenenses and Boavista, where he had his most successful spell with 50 goals in 92 appearances. He ended his spell in Europe, with 99 goals, making him one of the most prolific Nigerian players.
Widely considered Nigeria’s greatest ever striker and one of the best African players of all time, Rashidi Yekini had a career that spanned nearly 20 years. He is the all-time leading scorer for the Super Eagles with 37 goals and won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994.
Goals have always been a part of Yekini’s game, and he was prolific everywhere he went. His most successful spell was with Portuguese side Vitoria Setubal where he scored 94 goals in 128 appearances across two spells.
Yekini had a spell with FC Zurich where he scored 14 goals in 28 appearances and continued to improve his tally in short stints at clubs like Olympiacos and Sporting Gijon. He finished his European career with 113 goals and returned to the Nigerian scene where he played out his final days.
Jonathan Akpoborie is a Nigerian former striker, who spent most of his career in Germany after beginning his career at Julius Berger. His journey to Germany took a detour to Brooklyn College where he spent four years.
Akpoborie’s first stop in Germany was Bundesliga 2 side FC Saarbrucken, where he scored nine goals before going on to bag 26 goals at Carl Zeiss Jena. However, his most successful spell was with Stuttgarter Kickers where he found the net 37 times in 32appearances.
His exploits in Germany’s lower leagues caught the attention of topflight sides and Akpoborie earned a move to Hansa Rostock. He also played for VfB Stuttgart and VfL Wolfsburg, maintaining his scoring touch all through.
Overall, Akpoborie netted 143 goals across all his spells in Germany. However, despite consistently scoring goals at club level, he never forged a great career with the Super Eagles, making only 13 appearances between 1995 and 2001, scoring four goals.
Renowned for his calmness in front of goal, Yakubu Aiyegbeni is one of the most prolific strikers to come out of Nigeria. Beginning his career at Julius Berger, he earned a loan move to Gil Vicente in Portugal, although his spell was largely unremarkable.
Despite the poor stint in Portugal, Aiyegbeni caught the eye of Maccabi Haifa, where he began to make his mark in Europe. He scored 24 goals for the Israeli side, including a spectacular hat-trick against Olympiacos in a UEFA Champions League group stage fixture.
Aiyegbeni’s performances in Israel soon caught the attention of Premier League clubs and he earned a loan move to Portsmouth, which was eventually made permanent. Success followed in England as he went on to play for Middlesbrough, Everton, Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers.
Although he eventually played in China and the Middle East, Aiyegbeni’s most prolific period was in Europe. He scored 145 goals throughout his stay, making him the most prolific Nigerian player in Europe.
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