In the final part of this article, IKENWA NNABUOGOR tries to answer the main question – who is the GOAT of Nigeria, the greatest player of all time …
Although Keshi, Ekini and, to some extent, Nwosu have vacillated between the old and golden generations, the influences of Daniel Amokachi, Austin “JJ” Okochi, Nwankwo Kanu, Sandy Olise, Okechukwu Uche, Vincent Enyeama and, more recently, Ahmed Musa, in now being the captain of the Super Eagles can push the debate over who should be called the greatest Nigerian footballer to the limit.
Injuries painfully slowed Amokati, dubbed “Da Bull” by the local press, a former tough striker for Belgian club Brugge was good enough to be the greatest ever, perhaps still.
His performances with the Eagles were as colorful as those of his club until a disfiguring knee injury ended his career, but he still got the job done in his short career.
Back at Club Brugge, he became the first player to score in the newly created UEFA Champions League when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against CSKA Moscow in 1992. the youngest player to ever play AFCON two years earlier at Algiers’90.
His fun times at Everton are lovingly preserved in Merseyside, while his landmark goal – his 2,000th Turkish league goal for Besiktas – remains set in stone.
He only wore the Eagles jersey 44 times, which also placed him in the top 10 all-time scorers with 13 goals.
Coach Clemens Westerhof, just as he unleashed teenage Amokachi on Eagles opponents, bloodied another youth Austin “JJ” Okocha into his team in 1993 to begin the process that would produce one of the greatest football players of all time as in Nigeria. and in the world.
Chelsea host Arsenal today, so let’s go back to 1999 when Nwankwo Kanu scored one of the most iconic goals in the Premier League and scored a 15-minute hat-trick at the Bridge 🎩🇳🇬 pic.twitter.com/0gdp9o9T8L
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) April 20, 2022
No wonder “JJ” was named by Pelé among the 125 living best football players of all time, he is the only Nigerian to be so recognized by the legendary football icon, considered the best player of all time.
The former Fenerbach midfielder was never going to be ignored by any club or national coach, as his skill and magic could have blown up the box office charts if made into a biopic.
“JJ” will never be forgotten for the wonderful things he did for both the club and the country when his amazing career came to an end in 2008.
Touted as the most skilled African footballer, “JJ” was incredibly comfortable with the ball and handled the round skin like he got the remote control buttons solely for what he liked with the ball.
Bolton Wanderers weren’t the biggest English club when they arrived in 2002 to put the Lancashire team on the map of English football, helping them reach the FA Cup final in 2004 before bowing to Manchester United.
Okochi’s sins among the football fans was that he did not take his game higher to play for the best clubs, which they thought would easily earn him the undisputed status of the greatest player not only in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole.
Okocha was also the leader of the men, like Muda Laval, Nwosu and Keshi, and conducted the orchestra in the middle of the park for his country better than the famous Italian Luciano Pavarotti and inspired his club and country to many victories.
However, he was heavily criticized for needless show leading to killing on-target attacks and for making his team look like a circus when there was enough serious business on the field to lead to victories.
Fans argued that with a little sense of the ball in his game, “JJ” could easily be considered the greatest player in the national team.
Nwankwo Kanu seemed to have more sense of the ball than others, which made him stand out as arguably the greatest player in his country, judging by his breathtaking performances for club and country.
GOAL!!! Belter Sunday Olise!!!
— Deejayfaremi (@deejayfaremi) June 9, 2018
Sluggish and frail, Canu was so deceptive on the outside that his all-around admirable skills sold him to the world despite heart problems that limited his chances at Inter Milan.
His records for the club and the country would undoubtedly crown him with the greatest achievement of the country, if only they were taken into account.
His honorary office is full of international and personal titles, chief among them the two-time African Player of the Year award, as well as Champions League and UEFA Cup titles, smiling at him in his office.
Apart from these accolades, Kanu’s grace on the field for the club and country was divine and direct from God as his amazing all-round skill, ball feel, goals and overall teamwork set him apart as arguably Nigeria’s and arguably Africa’s greatest player.
However, his 86 Eagles appearances and 12 goals have a few downsides – he never won an AFCON championship and never scored at AFCON.
Jay Jay Okocha
Just look at this! pic.twitter.com/IRxKO9lQeB
— Kachi (@ProsperKachi) August 25, 2022
Westerhof was forced to heed the call of the Nigerian media that obscure Belgian midfielder Sunday Olise should solve the problems of keeping and inoculating the Eagles midfield, and with him came the then upstart Liege, and the rest is history.
Olise not only cemented his place in the Super Eagles, but led the team with the kind of vision and exemplary leadership that has stood the test of time, albeit with a bit of personality conflict that marred his tenure with the Eagles even as a coach until much later.
Olise would soon become a mainstay of the Eagles in midfield since his debut in 1993 in a ruthless 6-0 thrashing of Ethiopia in Lagos and even into the post-Westerhof era, breaking the opposition’s rhythm with unrivaled ease and initiating attacks with his delightful long passes. which Ekini ate to add to his record tally of 37 goals.
Olisa will not be forgotten for the great things he did for the Eagles, although he left in a deplorable scathing manner over issues bordering on the players’ commitment to the national cause.
His highs of 54 appearances for his country were the 1994 AFCON and 1995 Afro-Asian Nations Cup titles.
Mention should be made of the nation’s first centurions, Captains Joseph Yobo and Vincent Enyeam, although proclaiming each of them the greatest would draw criticism.
Both are AFCON title holders and men’s leaders at various times, their performances in the Eagles as well as their clubs are indeed worthy of being considered contenders, but certainly not the best.
At the moment, Enyeama has brought a whole new dimension to the role of a goalkeeper worthy of emulation not only in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole.
Twice recognized as the best foreign player in Israel and France, where he played for Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Lille, ending a brilliant career that has inspired many African goalkeepers.
Enyeama can easily be considered the greatest Nigerian goalkeeper of all time, although some may disagree with the legendary Peter Rufai.
Yobo was a full-time player for club and country and became the first African player to score all 38 goals for Everton in the 2006/2007 FA Premier League season.
Yobo was also a shrewd and exemplary leader, leading the attack from behind and reminding attackers that he too could score seven goals in 101 matches for his country.
So who is the best Nigerian player of all time?
The choice is yours as a thorough and mental analysis of all available tests to make a final decision.
Factors to consider include the players’ all-round performances for the club and country, titles – club, international and personal, as well as attitudes and professional conduct.
How about leading by example and inspiring the team, especially the younger players?
A player’s greatest reward should be hard to earn, and not just a walk in the park.
Can this title finally pass to Nwankwo Kang by the standards listed above?
The debate drags on, but the choice is yours, and so it should be.