The 2021 Champions League final takes place tonight with Chelsea taking on Manchester City for the biggest prize in club football.
There won’t be a Nigerian representative at the Estádio do Dragão, but many Nigerians have made their marks in the competition.
And ahead of the final, Allballerzone creates the best Xi of Nigerian players to have played in the Champions League.
Vincent Enyeama (Goalkeeper): The number one position goalkeeper is an easy choice. Vincent Enyeama is the only Nigerian goalkeeper that made a notable contribution in Europe’s biggest club competition.
The retired shot-stopper played has made six appearances excluding the qualifying stages for both Lille and Hapoel Tel-Aviv.
Enyeama is one of the five goalkeepers to have scored in a Champions League game.
Chidi Odiah (Right-Back): Chidi Odiah’s best moment was in the UEFA Cup, now called the Europa League. The former Super Eagles star was part of the CSKA squad that won Europe’s second club competition in 2005.
However, Odiah still made ten appearances in the Champions League and that earn him a place in the XI.
Taye Taiwo (Left-Back): Before Youssoufa Moukoko broke the record, Celestine Babayaro was the youngest player to play in the Champions League.
But despite the feat, Babayaro misses out to Taye Taiwo in our XI. The 36-year-old has 31 appearances in the competition, playing for AC Milan, Olympique Marseille and Dynamo Kyiv.
That’s more than the 21 Babayaro managed for Chelsea and Anderlecht.
Taribo West (Centre-Back): Just a few Nigerian centre-backs have played in the Champions League. Taribo West is one of them.
The footballer turned pastor has 17 appearances in the competition, which all came for Inter Milan, Partizan Belgrade and Auxerre.
He did not make a major impact in the competition, but he did win the UEFA Cup with Inter in 1998.
Efe Ambrose (Centre-Back): Efe Ambrose partners West at the back. The 2013 Afcon winner has 28 Champions league appearances, including qualifying- all which came for Celtic.
He even managed to score one goal- although in the qualifiers.
John Mikel Obi (Midfielder):. Mikel made 59 appearances for Chelsea in the Champions League, including the 2012 final where he delivered a man of the match performance as the Blues defeated Bayern Munich to win their first league title.
He only scored six goals for Chelsea, but two of the goals came in the Champions League. He’s one of the country’s most successful players in the competition.
Yusuf Ayila (Midfielder): Yusuf Ayila joins Mikel in the midfield. The former Nigerian international has 26 apperances in the competition, which all came for Dynamo Kyiv.
Ayila’s top moment in the competition came against Real Madrid in 2004, where he scored in a 2-2 draw.
Austin Jay-Jay Okocha (Midfielder): So good, they named him twice. Austin Jay-Jay Okocha is the last member of our three-man midfield.
He had lesser appearances and never really had much impact in the competition, making just 14 appearances in the competition.
However, his talent is undeniable, which is why he earns a spot in the XI.
Finidi George (Winger): At a point, Finidi George was the best winger in the world. He was and still the only world-class Nigerian has ever produced.
His selection is a no-brainer. Finidi made 20 appearances in the competition, scoring two goals. He was part of the Ajax side that beat AC Milan on penalties in the 1995 final.
Ahmed Musa (Winger): Although he did not have much success in the tournament, he fits in perfectly into this role. Also, only five Nigerians have scored more goals in the Champions League than Musa.
The Kano Pillars star has six goals in 31 appearances.
Obafemi Martins (Striker): Kanu would be aggrieved to have missed out, but it’s hard to leave out Obafemi Martins, even though he did not win the competition.
The former Inter Milan forward is Nigeria’s top scorer in the competition with 10 goals. He’s also just behind Kanu and Mikel in terms of appearances in the competition.
Kanu won the competition with Ajax, but he just didn’t do enough individually to be selected.