Since the Premier League began in 1992, many great African players have graced the competition. Ivorian international striker Didier Drogba, with his 164 goals in two spells for Chelsea, was arguably the best of them all, but there have been many other special talents.
Tony Yeboah, Yaya Toure, Sadio Mane and Nwankwo Kanu are some of the best African footballers in recent EPL history, while Egyptian international Mohamed Salah currently scores heavily for Liverpool.
Included in the list of African greats are many Nigerian players and many are still active in the English Premier League.
Keeping the Foxes on Course
For most of his eight years in England, Kelechi Iheanacho has been used as a back up to the main strikers. He began his career at Taye Academy in Imo State while an impressive set of displays at the Under-17 World Cup attracted the attention of some big clubs around Europe.
Manchester City made their move and, after a spell in their youth academy, Iheanacho made his senior debut for the club in 2015. Frustrated at the lack of first team opportunities, the Centre forward moved to Leicester City in 2017, but he has tobe patient as second choice behind Jamie Vardy.
During his time at the King Power Stadium, Kelechi Iheanacho has scored some important goals. At the start of 2023, he struck the only goal in Leicester’s third round FA Cup win over Gillingham.
After a poor start to the Premier League season, sports bettingmarkets show the Foxes among the outsiders to win the FA Cup, but more goals from their Nigerian international could help to upset the odds.
Kelechi Iheanacho has an international teammate in the Foxes squad. Wilfred Ndidi joined Leicester City in 2017 after two seasons with Genk in Belgium. Like a lot of his contemporaries who are now employed at top European clubs, Ndidi has never played professionally in his native Nigeria.
The defender was spotted while playing at youth level with the Nath Boys Academy. From there, he was taken to Belgium where he made his senior debut for Genk as an 18-year-old.
Wilfred Ndidi’s career took off when he crossed to the English Premier League. He won the FA Cup with Leicester City in 2021 and has become a regular player in the Nigerian national team, winning 48 caps to date.
Forest Keep Fighting
If relegation candidates Nottingham Forest are to stay in the Premier League, they will be grateful for the contributions of Taiwo Awoniyi. After a solitary season with Union Berlin in Germany, he headed for the City Ground in 2022.
Awoniyi impressed in the Bundesliga, scoring 20 goals in 43 games across all competitions in 2021/22. As his Forest team fight relegation, it’s been tougher for the Nigerian international, but four goals in his first 16 league matches have included some important strikes.
Taiwo Awoniyi scored the winner in his team’s most impressive performance this season, a 1-0 win over Liverpool, and he’ll need to maintain that form if the club are to survive.
Southampton’s Nigerian international midfielder Joe Aribo took a more direct route into the English Premier League. The 26-year-old was born in London and has spent his entire professional career in the UK.
Aribo began with non-league Staines Town and was spotted by Charlton Athletic. He spent four years with the South London club before heading to Scotland to join Glasgow Rangers. Joe Aribo signed for Southampton in 2022 and is another player currently battling against relegation.
He can score useful goals from midfield and, via his ancestry, Aribo has already made 20 appearances for the Nigerian international team.
More to Follow?
Who will be the next Nigerian international to join his predecessors in the Premier League. One of the most promising young strikers in world football right now is Victor Osimhenwho has been in productive form for his Italian side Napoli.
Osimhen has dismissed speculation over his future and wants to help league leaders Napoli to close out the Serie A title. Once the current season is over, Manchester United are among a host of Premier League clubs to be linked with the player’s signature.
Could Calvin Bassey make a return to the UK? The young defender played for two seasons at Glasgow Rangers before joining Ajax last summer. The player revealed that he has been turned down by Premier League clubs in the past and he’s looking to prove them wrong.
The Dutch Eredivisie is actively scouted by Premier League sides, and few would rule out a place at a top English outfit for Bassey in the future.
There are many top-class Nigerian players already involved in the English Premier League. It’s surely only a matter of time before their numbers increase.