Ranking the Greatest Nigerians to Play in Ligue 1 From Jay Jay Okocha to Vincent Enyeama

Ranking the Greatest Nigerians to Play in Ligue 1 From Jay Jay Okocha to Vincent Enyeama

Edwin Kiplagat
February 20, 2024 at 4:11 PM
In this article:
French Ligue 1 logo
FRA Ligue 1
  • Some of Nigeria's greatest players have played in Ligue 1
  • Jay-Jay Okocha spent four years at PSG entertaining fans
  • Over 30 Nigerian players have played in France's top flight

Nigerian footballers have represented the African continent in the top European leagues for years.

Ligue 1, France's top-flight league, has witnessed some iconic Nigerian players don the jerseys of their clubs.

Jay-Jay Okocha, one of Nigeria's greatest players, briefly played in Ligue 1, opening doors for other players from his country and Africa.

Jay-Jay Okocha, John Utaka, Taribo West, Victor Ikpeba, Nigeria, Vincent Enyeama, Ligue 1, Victor Osimhen
Jay-Jay Okocha and John Utaka left their mark in Ligue 1. Photos by Xavier Laine and Valerio Pennicino.
Source: Getty Images

There's a long list of Nigerian players who've played in Europe's top five leagues, won league titles, scored great goals, and left unforgettable memories in the minds and hearts of fans.

Some of the Super Eagles greats have graced Ligue 1 for decades. Here are the top 5.

Top 5 Nigerians to play in Ligue 1

Honourable mentions: Victor Osimhen, Samson Siasia, Terem Moffi, Brown Ideye, Wilson Oruma, Taye Taiwo, Ricky Owubokiri, Peter Osaze Odemwingie.

5. Taribo West, Auxerre (1993-97)

Despite wearing the colours of AC Milan and Inter Milan, West's career took off in France. The imposing defender won the French Ligue 1 in Auxerre in the 1995/96 season. The Super Eagles star also helped the club reach the Champions League quarter-finals in 1996/97.

France icon Thierry Henry named him as the toughest defender he ever faced for a reason, per Planet Football.

Taribo West, Jay-Jay Okocha, Nigeria, Ligue 1
Jay-Jay Okocha and Taribo West of Nigeria line up for the national anthem before the World Cup group D game against Spain. Ross Kinnaird /Allsport.
Source: Getty Images

4. Vincent Enyeama, Lille (2011-18)

Enyeama is Nigeria's greatest-ever goalkeeper. After he was promoted to the starting eleven position in the 2013/14 season, He made 164 appearances for Lille. He was the undisputed No. 1 for seven years at the club. The Super Eagles legend kept an incredible 11 clean sheets in a row in the 2013/14 season. Those performances made him the first goalkeeper named Ligue 1 African Player of the Season.

He amassed 101 caps with Nigeria and represented them at the World Cup and AFCON. He was part of the team that won the 2013 AFCON.

3. Victor Ikpeba, Monaco (1993-99)

Like African Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen, the centre-forward earned his stripes in France. Popularly known as the 'Prince of Monaco', Ikpeba played his best football at Monaco. His spell in France saw him win the 1997 African Footballer of the Year award.

He bagged 77 goals for Monaco in 223 appearances, with 55 coming in Ligue 1. He was part of the Nigerian team that won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations.

Victor Ikpeba, Edgar Davids, Monaco, Ligue 1, Nigeria
Victor Ikpeba fighting for the ball with Edgar Davids of Juventus. Photo by Ben Radford /Allsport.
Source: Getty Images

2. John Utaka, Lens, Rennes, Montpellier

Utaka made stops at three different teams in France. The forward scored 59 Ligue 1 goals in 239 appearances. He memorable bagged back-to-back hat-tricks for Stade Rennais, an incredible feat that few Nigerian players have matched. In the mid-2000s, Utaka reached double figures in goals for Rennes and Lens.

He won the 2011/12 Ligue 1 title with Montpellier just before PSG dominance began.

1. Jay-Jay Okocha, PSG (1998-2002)

Okocha is the most naturally gifted Nigerian footballer ever. He never played for the big boys in England or Spain, but he was one of the most enjoyable players to watch. His spell at PSG saw him play 113 games and scored 20 goals.

His outrageous pieces of skills wowed fans all over France. Nigeria has never produced a player like Okocha.

Nigerian stars in Serie A

Sports Brief earlier reported on the greatest Nigerian players in the Serie A. After winning the league in France, Taribo West moved to Italy to play for Inter Milan and AC Milan.

Osimhen moved to Italy in 2020 and is easily the best Nigerian player to grace the Italian league. Obafemi Martins and Simeon 'Simy' Nwankwo also made the list.

Edwin Kiplagat photo
Edwin Kiplagat
Edwin Kiplagat has five years of experience in journalism working as a Sports Editor at Africa Insight Communications and ESPN. Edwin Kiplagat is a Bachelor's Degree holder in journalism from the Multimedia University of Kenya.