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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nwakwo Kanu – Nigeria’s Greatest Player Ever

Nwankwo Kanu - a man with many faces

Impeccably poised, assured, cultured, composed, modest and an astute professional. These are just some of the few words that can be used to describe Nigeria’s legendary player Nwakwo Kanu who recently bowed out of football after nearly two decades of devoted service to the beautiful game.

"Papilo”, as he is commonly referred to by Nigerians is arguably one of the best players to have come from the African continent, and the best Nigeria has ever produced; well, at least according to Nigerians. A survey conducted by Supersport.com from November 2010 to early this year aimed at finding Nigeria’s Top 50 Best Footballers in history.

With big names like the exciting Jay Jay Okocha, the legendary Rashidi Yekini, Emmanuel Amuneke and the stylish and colourful (in terms of the hair) Taribo West all having played a part in making Nigeria a continental and international football powerhouse, it was always going to be hard to even select the Top 10, let alone that number one.

Nevertheless, the odds were never against the lanky two-time African Footballer of the year. So when the Owerri-born playmaker emerged tops, perhaps it never surprised many. The former Nigerian captain beat a strong field of competitors with the person he replaced as Captain Jay Jay Okocha coming second.  Sunday Oliseh who played 63 international matches for the Super Eagles and scored four goals from his defensive midfield position ranked 3rd with Rashidi Yekini, the Super Eagles’ record goalscorer with 70 goals and the first Nigerian player to win the African Footballer of the Year award in 1993 finishing fourth ahead of Patrick Olusegun Odegbami.

Other players who got into the Top 10 included former internationals Stephen Keshi , Emmanuel Amuneke, Finidi George, Christian Chukwu  and Muda Lawal in positions six, seven, eight, nine and ten respectively.

The highest placed Nigerian player who is still active in football is goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama (19th) who recently signed a three-year contract with French Champions Lille after transferring from Israeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Other current players who got into the Top 50 include new AC Milan left back Taye Taiwo (22), current Super Eagles captain Joseph Yobo (27), Shakhtar Donetsk striker Julius “Aghawonder” Aghahowa (37), West Brom hotshot Peter Osaze Odemwingie (38), Rubin Kazan striker Obafemi Martins (42), Everton hitman Yakubu ‘The Yak’ Aiyegbeni, and Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel (46) who happens to be the youngest among that elite list.

After winning lots of accolade both on and off the pitch, Kanu will gladly welcome this latest and perhaps the greatest fete of his well-documented career from his most immediate fans. Below are the some of the highlights of his career:

  • Won two CAF African best player awards in 1996 and 1999
  • BBC African Footballer of the Year: 1997, 1999
  • Won the English Premier league twice with Arsenal
  • FA Cup thrice, twice with Arsenal and once with Portsmouth
  • UEFA Champions' League with Ajax
  • UEFA Cup with Internazionale
  • Olympic gold medal for Nigeria in 1996
  • FIFA U-17 World Cup with Nigeria in 1993
  • Three Eredivisie titles and one UEFA Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup with Ajax
  • Won the 1992-93 Nigerian Premier League with Iwuanyanwu Nationale
  • One of the only three players to have won the Champions League, UEFA Cup, Premiership and FA Cup. Others are Chelsea’s Paulo Ferreira & Ricardo Carvalho
  • The founder of Kanu Nwankwo Heart Foundation which helps underprevileged African children and young adults, living with different heart ailments in Nigeria and other African countries obtain cardiac surgical operations
  • A UNICEF Ambassador
Only legends achieve all the above. Nwakwo Kanu did. 

And That's thesteifmastertake!!