Nigerian players have a superb heritage in the Champions League. Three of the nation’s stars (Kanu Nwankwo, Finidi Georrge and Mikel Obi) have won the competition, while countless others have starred at the European high table. In this feature, we present the six Nigerian players set to contest this year’s competition—which of this names will get the furthest in the 2015-16 edition?
Ahmed Musa, CSKA Moscow – Group B: Despite being Champions League regulars, the Russian heavyweights only qualified this season following a late playoff comeback against Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon. The attacking verve they demonstrated in the second leg, when the chips were down, may serve them well, but escaping from a pool containing Manchester United, Wolfsburg and PSV Eindhoven will not be easy. Nigeria captain Ahmed Musa has experience of the competition, but only managed one goal and one assist in six outings last year.
Alex Iwobi, Arsenal – Group F: Speedy youngster Alex Iwobi didn’t move on loan during the summer, and will be available for the Gunners in this year’s tournament. He may find first-team opportunities hard to come by, but Arsene Wenger has demonstrated a propensity for giving youngsters a run out in the competition, and may see an opportunity to blood Iwobi. The skilful Lagos-born youngster will look to make the most of any opportunity, and you can bet that Amaju Pinnick will be watching!
Ideye Brown, Olympiakos – Group F: Up against Iwobi’s Arsenal in Group F are Greek heavyweights Olympiakos, who can themselves call upon a Nigerian talent. Ideye Brown’s unhappy stay at West Bromwich Albion came to an end this summer, with a move to Piraeus, and while he may take a while to find his feet, he could prove to be a valuable asset for Thrylos. At only 26, the forward still has time to prove his worth to Sunday Oliseh, and the Champions League is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
John Obi Mikel, Chelsea – Group G: As the only active player to have previously won the Champions League, much will be expected of Mikel this season. Questions about his role at Chelsea persist, although having been drafted into the side by Jose Mourinho for the recent Premier League clash against Everton, there is evidence that he still has a part to play for the troubled Pensioners.
Nosa Igiebor, Maccabi Tel Aviv – Group G : Something of a forgotten man with the national side, Nosa swapped Spain and Real Betis for a move back to Israel last year. Having previously starred for Tel Aviv’s other major club, Hapoel, he now turns out for Maccabi, with whom he won the Israeli title last season. This is only the Yellows’ second-ever appearance in the Champions League group stage, and Igiebor will have to be at his creative best if the underdogs are to avoid a first-round elimination.
Moses Simon, Gent – Group H: While the likes of Mikel, Ideye and Musa are fairly familiar figures for Nigerian fans and European audiences, Moses Simon is the kind of player who may surprise one or two in this year’s tournament. The Nigerian Messi is a dazzling presence in wide areas, and while little will be expected of Gent, their favourable group could afford the young Super Eagle the opportunity to shine.