Nigeria is one of the 54 countries that comprise Africa.
Also called the “Giant of Africa,” the country is home to diverse ethnicities and the largest oil producer in Africa. Like any other country, Nigeria aspires to produce excellent athletes, which it already did.
You can tell its success from the athletes playing for other countries in various sports, including professional association football.
Nigerian athletes have been exporting themselves to some of the most elite leagues in Europe.
Nigerians love football, but it’s not easy to keep track of those footballers engaged abroad. Read through the list below to know some of the best Nigerian footballers playing in Europe’s top leagues.
1. Moses Simon
First on the list is Moses Daddy-Ajala Simon, or simply Moses Simon. Simon was born on July 12, 1995, in one of Nigeria’s Middle Belt cities, Jos. He went to the GBS Academy, the same football academy where the national football team’s forward, Ahmed Musa, graduated. One of the names comprising his middle name, Ajala, means “traveler” in Yoruba.
Simon currently plays as a forward for Football Club de Nantes Atlantique, commonly known as FC Nantes or Nantes. The French team is placed 19th within the Ligue 1 and has a 1.03 average goal per match. He also plays with the national football team of Nigeria.
During the 2019-2020 Ligue 1 season, he played 26 times with Nantes and scored five goals and had five assists. Moses Simon plays it safe on the field. He is known to dribble and play with the ball during matches and loves to play short passes. He is not an aggressive player, and he does not dive into tackles. Moses is a great football player to bet on with exotic goal bets (e.g. over/under goals).
2. Victor Osimhen
One of the most sought-after Nigerian football players is Victor James Osimhen. He was born on December 22, 1988, in Lagos, Nigeria. Before his birth, his parents and other siblings lived in Nigeria’s Edo State. His family relocated to Lagos as it was the economic hub of Nigeria back then. As a child, Victor, or Vic to his friends, sold sachet water and other household necessities on the street.
Victor Osimhen reacts during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between Granada CF and SSC Napoli at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes on February 18, 2021 in Granada, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)
He was introduced to football when he attended the Olusosun primary school. The school was the assembly place of all the young footballers in the community they live in. He’s in his senior career as a forward under the Italian team Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli or, in short, Napoli.
The team ranks fifth on the overall team ranking of Series A for its 2020-2021 season. Moreover, Napoli won six Coppa Italia titles, two league titles, and a UEFA Cup.
3. Ola Aina
Temitayo Olufisayo Olaoluwa Aina, or better known as Ola, is a British Nigerian professional football player. Ola was born in Southwark, South London, on the 8th of October 1996, to a Nigerian immigrant couple.
Life was not always easy for Ola growing up. Although his parents migrated to London, they still struggled financially. Regardless of their financial status, his parents did everything they could to give him the best in the world. Ola’s father saw that he had the making of a great athlete that he is now.
He is currently affiliated with three teams. Currently, he’s on loan to Fulham Football Club, where he plays wing-back. His original team, the Torino Football Club, plays in Series A and ranked 17th. Lastly, to honor his roots, he plays for the Nigerian national team as a defender.
4. Samuel Chukwueze
Born on May 22, 1999, Samuel Chimerenka Chukwueze is the youngest professional football player on the list. Samuel is from Abia State’s capital city Umuahia, the southeastern part of Nigeria. His family is of Igbo descent, and he was raised as a Christian like any other Igbo child.
Some dubbed him as the Nigerian version of Lionel Messi due to the way he plays. He has exceptional dribbling skills and superb ball control, making him create accurate passes. He’s also been compared to Arjen Robben from the Netherlands.
He currently plays for the Villarreal Club de Fútbol, S.A.D., commonly known as Villarreal CF, as a winger. The team plays in the Spanish football league, La Liga, and ranked 7th among the teams. Moreover, like others on the list, Chukwueze also plays for the Nigerian national team, still as a winger. He is a player many football commentators have on their watch list.
5. Kelechi Iheanacho
Kelechi Promise Ịheanachọ, or Kel to his teammates, friends, and family, was born October 3, 1996, in Imo, Nigeria. As a kid, he was an avid football fan, going to viewing centers to watch matches.
Playing professional football was the dream for the little Kelechi, and it came true. He played his first professional game when he was 19 in a UEFA Youth League. He currently plays for the Leicester City Football Club in the English Premier League as a forward. The team ranks top three in the league and won the League Cup thrice.
He also played for the national football team of Nigeria and made some appearances in some squad. For example, he played for the senior team of Manchester City in the 2015–16 season.
Whether they’re playing at their clubs or representing Nigeria, their fellow Nigerians couldn’t be prouder. Moreover, the abundance of Nigerian footballers in top European clubs show that Nigeria produces some of the best players in the world.