Nigerian footballers have made a significant impact in Europe’s biggest club competition, UEFA Champions League since its name was changed in 1992.
Not only have they won the ‘trophy with the big ears’ they have also set remarkable records such that the history of the tournament is not complete without a mention of their names.
As the competition reaches its last stages and quarterfinal games will be played today, here is a list of the top 10 Nigerian players to have participated in the tournament.
1. John Utaka
John Utaka was a key member of the famous RC Lens that had a good run in the 2002/03 season. He scored two goals for Lens.
The squad had stars like Seidou Keita, Papa Bouba Diop, Ferdinand Colley, Rigobert Song, and Daniel Moriera.
2. Emmanuel Emenike
The 2013 AFCON winner scored a total of 7 Champions League goals making him one of the Nigerian players with the most goals at the tournament.
3. Celestine Babayaro
On November 23rd 1994, Celestine Babayaro made history when he played for Anderlecht against Steaua. At 16 years 86 days, he became the youngest player to play in the competition.
He would keep this record for 26 years until Youssoufa Moukoko broke the record in December 2020.
In the same game, Babayaro was sent off after 37 minutes of action becoming also the youngest player to be sent off.
4. Obafemi Martins
Obafemi Martins also had a great spell in the competition early on in his career with Inter Milan. He would be remembered for his goal for Inter Milan in the semi-final against Milan in 2003.
Martins also scored a great goal for Inter Milan against Arsenal in a quarterfinal fixture back in November 2003.
He is Nigeria’s highest goal scorer at the tournament with 10 goals.
5. Daniel Amokachi
Nigeria forward, Daniel Amokachi scored the first-ever goal in the history of the UEFA Champions League when he powered Club Brugge past CSKA Moscow 1-0 on November 25, 1992
The competition was rebranded and the name changed from the European Champions Cup to UEFA Champions League in 1992, and our own Daniel Amokachi scored the first-ever goal.
6. Yakuku Aiyegbeni
Yakubu Aiyegbeni, ‘the Yak’ was the first African player to score a hat-trick in the UEFA Champions League.
He achieved this feat long before the advent of Betting in Nigeria and before the likes of Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Sebastian Haller, Saido Mane, and Mo Salah.
Aiyegbeni scored three goals to power Maccabi Haifa past Olympiakos 3-0 on September 24th, 2002.
7. Victor Osimhen
Fresh on the scene but has achieved a remarkable feat worth inclusion on this list. Victor Osimhen has the opportunity the competition with two different teams, Lille, and Napoli.
In 2020 he scored two goals including a header against Chelsea in five games, and in this current campaign, he has scored 4 goals in 5 games for Napoli.
He is also the first-ever Napoli player to score in both legs of the UEFA Champions League knockout stages.
8. Finidi George
Finidi George was one of the best wingers in the world when he helped Ajax win the title in 1995.
He played a huge role in the star-studded Ajax squad which had the likes of Edgar Davids, Clearance Seedorf, Kanu Nwankwo, Patrick Kluivert, Edwin van der Sar, Frank Rijkaard, Winston Bogarde, Michael Reiziger, Ronald, and Frank De Boer
9. Kanu Nwankwo
A Champions League winner with the 1995 Ajax team. He also played in the competition with Arsenal.
10. John Mikel Obi
Mikel Obi produced a man-of-the-match performance to help Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in their stadium to claim the title in 2012.
He is the Nigerian player with the most cap at the tournament and also played in more semi final games than any other Nigerian player.