In the midst of the frequent search for greener pastures abroad by players in the Nigeria Professional Football League ( NPFL), there are few who by choice decided to stay and become legends of the local league.
Not many will be like Victor Ezeji who played for nine Npfl clubs in his career that spanned over 19 years from 1996 to 2015 with a one year stint at Club Africain in 2007.
While everybody adores a young player bursting through onto the scene and surprising the world, the NPFL has been blessed with some superb veterans throughout the years.
Today we look at players who have spent over 5 years in one or various NPFL clubs over the years in no particular order.
10. Chinedu Udoji – Kano Pillars
For those who don’t follow the NPFL deeply and consistently, they may be forgiven to think the hefty defender is still with Enyimba.
However, the hard as a nail defender joined Pillars at the beginning of the season ending his association with the side he captained to the league title in 2015.
Hardly will anyone list top 5 defenders from the NPFL without t27-year-oldold being listed, but the defender who has spent 10 years in the league, unfortunately, he hasn’t got a call up to the National team despite his exploits.
9. Okey Odita – Rangers
After long years of wait for a league title, the Flying Antelopes broke a 32-year jinx in 2016 to win the NPFL, Okey Odita was the lucky man who lifted the trophy as the captain of the side.
His one and only appearance for the super eagles came in 2004 which shows how long the defender have been in the game.
8. Isiaka Olawale – El kanemi
Many people recognise the Maiduguri Warriors’ midfielder as a beach soccer player as he is the captain of the Super Sand Eagles of Nigeria.
However, Isiaka Olawale has been in the NPFL for close to 15 years playing for four different clubs turning out for the likes of Enyimba, Dolphins, Kwara and Lobi stars before joining Elkanemi Warriors.
He was involved in the Super Eagles setup in 2007 under Berti Vogts.
7. David Tyavkase – Lobi Stars
Tyavkase is a CAF champions league winner with Enyimba when they won back to back champions league in 2003 and 2004.
The midfielder had stints with clubs on the African continent in Gabon before returning to Nigeria with Lobi stars of Markurdi where he currently plies his trade
6. Ikechukwu Igbenegbu – Enyimba
The Back to back Federations cup winners medal with Heartland FC is what the forward can boast of, he alongside Isiaka Olawale plays in the Super sand Eagles team, and so far has played with Warri Wolves before joining Enyimba.
After a decade in the NPFL which started with Elkanemi in 2006, he was called into the CHAN team in 2016.
5. Akpan Bassey – Rangers
16 years after playing in the u17 World cup final against France on 2001 where Nigeria lost, the goalkeeper is still waxing strong.
Having played for the likes of Shooting, Bayelsa United, Sunshine, Kwara United, Heartland, Abia Warriors and Akwa United, he was signed up by Rangers during their goalkeeping injury crises, the goalkeeper has spent close to 13 years in the league after stints in South Africa and Vietnam.
4. Gambo Muhammed – Kano pillars
A stalwart in the pillars attack, he alongside Rabiu Ali and Adamu Muhammed are core members of the Sai’ Masu Gida team who have been around for what seems like forever. He has over 70 goals in more than 200 appearances for pillars since 2006 when he joined from Buffalo.
The striker was with the team that represented Nigeria at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil where he fluffed his lines against Spain in the 3-0 defeat and has since fallen out of the A team. However, he has represented the B team at the CHAN tournaments and has a goal in 7 matches
3. Ifeanyi Onuigbo – Fc Ifeanyi Ubah
The striker has an imposing figure with a deadlock on his head, he has spent over a decade in the NPFL with teams like Heartland and most recently Enyima starring in their Caf Champions league campaign last season.
He has since joined Fc Ifeanyi Ubah where he also featured in the Caf confederations cup this season, he is one of the few players who alternates between Beach soccer and the conventional football as he also features for the beach soccer team.
2. Rotimi Sunday- River United
The goalkeeper could easily pass as the oldest player in the league (and could possibly be the oldest), he has played close to 2 decades in the Npfl and he is currently the first choice goalkeeper for Rivers United helping them to a 2nd place finish last season.
As the case is with world class goalkeepers, Rotimi Sunday gets better as he ages, just 3 years shy of clocking 40, he made his debut in 1997 with Plateau United before going on to represent Sunshine, Elkanemi Dolphins and Enyimba.
The shot stopper made his national team debut as far back as 2001 deputising for Austin Ejide in an Afcon qualifier against Namibia and he accumulated 5 appearances in total for the A team and several others for the B team. His last involvement with the national team was a call up by Samson siasia in 2011 as a cover for Enyeama.
1. Rabiu Ali – Kano pillars
Another player over the age of 35, the midfielder won three NPFL titles with pillars between 2011 and 2014. The skipper of the Sai Masu Gida he has shown he becomes better like an old wine.
He won the latest version of the VAT wonder goal for his header against ABS in the match day 26 encounter in Ilorin. Apart from that, he scored a screamer against Remo stars in shagamu in another 1-1 draw to show he still has the spark despite being a 36 year old.
He was the captain of the B team of the super Eagles, leading them to third place at the 2014 CHAN in South Africa and also the 2016 edition where Nigeria dropped out at the group stage.
Other mentions are Adamu Muhammed, Dele Ajiboye, Cletus Itodo, King Osanga, Theophilus Afelokhai.
2 Potential Manager To Replace Hansi Flick
Hansi Flick awesome reign with the Bavarian giant is gradually winding down, as it’s looking likely that he may not further manage the Die Roten next season.
Bayern Munich’s quest to win the Champions League consecutively came to end on Tuesday night, via the UEFA’s away goal rules having lost the first leg at home to Paris Saint Germain in the quarter-finals despite being the better side at home.
The Bavarian giant will now focus on league duty and they’re no doubt the team in pole position to win the Bundesliga, as the 2020-21 campaign is gradually coasting home with fewer games left to be played. In that regard, there is a great need for Die Roten to start preparing for next season administration and coaching wise.
The friction relationship between Hansi Flick and the Sports Director has broken down to such as extent that the manager has decided to terminate his current contract.
Hansi Flick sent shock waves through German football on Saturday after a 3-2 win over Wolfburg which keeps the Bavarian in pole position to retain the league title. Hansi Flick issued a statement about his decision to exit when the current campaign draws to a close.
“I told the team today that I informed the club during the week, after the game in Paris, I would like to terminate my contract at the end of the season.
“It was important to me that the team learn this from me because there was already a lot of hallway rumours going around.
“We’ve done a great job together for almost two years. I’m absolutely impressed with this team, their quality and their attitude.”
He added: “I also want to thank the club that gave me the chance to manage this incredible team.
“This decision was not easy for me. I’m a fan of this club. Gerd Müller, Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge all were childhood idols for me.
“I’m eternally grateful to the club for the chance they gave me to become head coach here.”
It’s quite evident that a new manager would be appointed to pave way for a new rebuild of the team especially with the looming departure of David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, and Javi Martinez.
Two potential top managers that could succeed Hansi Flick, should he accept Die Mannschaft managerial position.
- Julien Nagelsmann – (RB Leipzig)
Nagelsmann has been rumoured as a possible replacement to succeed not one but many managers in Europe’s top-flight leagues whose future with their respective clubs are not guaranteed. This time around, the 33-year-old has been rumoured to be one of the possible potential managers to succeed Hansi Flick.
It could be argued that Nagelsmann is the tailor-made manager to take over the reins at the Allianz Arena, and there is no doubt RB Leipzig manager would certainly harbour the dream of managing one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Nagelsmann is presently focusing on the job at hand with RB Leipzig, plus the fact that he’s still under contract with his employers until the end of the 2022-23 season.
With RB Leipzig and Nagelsmann flying high in the Bundesliga in terms of team performances, with next season European football spot already secured, the club’s Executive Director Oliver Mintzlaff may consider letting him leave to join their rival.
However, it’s left to be seen how things would shape up at the end of the campaign.
READ ALSO: 10 Managers Currently Managing Former Clubs
- Jurgen Klopp – (Liverpool)
The relationship the German tactician has achieved thus far with Liverpool started in 2015 when he joined the Kop from Borussia Dortmund, since then he has achieved quite an incredible success with the Reds winning their first league title after thirty years and a Champions League triumph.
Liverpool were eliminated early in both domestic cup competitions and failed to progress past the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and it’s quite impossible to say that the Kop will defend their title with their current epileptic form in the Premier League especially when it’s looking done and dusted that the cityzen would clinch the title.
Having used close to six years with Liverpool since he joined the Anfield side, this could be the perfect time for the former Borussia Dortmund manager to take up a new challenge. However, despite Liverpool’s unpalatable 2020-21 campaign, the German has often reiterated that he is in no way finished at Liverpool, despite been link to the Bayern Munich and Die Mannschaft managerial position.
Given his incredible success with BVB, it’s quite evident that he would one day go on to manage either Die Roten or Die Mannschaft. Should Bayern secure the service of Klopp, he would certainly be the right and wise choice for the Bavarian giant.
At the end of the campaign, there would be a breath of fresh air in the Bavarian giant camp, with the new CEO Oliver Kahn taking the mantle of leadership from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. In that sense, it’s left to be seen if the incoming leader would sanction the appointment of a new manager or stick with Hansi Flick. Only time would tell.
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big Elsewhere
The English Premier League has welcomed some of the best players in the history of football. Players from different continents have made a huge impact on the league with impressive performances. There are others who failed to impress and can be termed as flops.
The League is quite unique from other European leagues. It is more competitive, fierce, physically challenging in nature. Needless to say, a player who isn’t mentally and physically geared up for this will stumble under the pressure.
Established stars can fall by the wayside with their former successes and triumphs becoming nothing more than a footnote in the EPL. Impressively, some of these players put in impressive performances when they moved to other leagues.
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big In Other Leagues
Following the impending sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Tottenham bought several players, one of the players they bought was Paulinho.
Paulinho was signed from Corinthians in Brazil where he helped them win the Copa Libertadores, Brasileirao, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
They defeated Chelsea in the latter to lift the trophy. Importantly, he had just won the FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil and was voted as the third-best player at the tournament.
He joined Tottenham as the club’s record signing in 2013, so a lot was expected of him. However, his performance was not as impressive as the club had envisaged. He was later sold to Guangzhou Evergrande in China at a loss.
The Brazilian’s transfer to the Chinese league resulted in a change of fortunes, as helped the club claim the Chinese league and the AFC Champions League title in his first season.
In the second, he was voted into the Chinese League team of the year in recognition of his performance. Also, he won the league, FA Cup, and Super Cup.
Although critics downplayed his performance, citing the standard of the Chinese league compared to the English league, Paulinho impressed in Spain too following a €40 million move to Barcelona.
Paulinho helped the club claim the league and the Copa del Rey trophy. His performance in his only season with Barcelona impressed Ronaldinho who said: “He really stood out.”
- Iago Aspas
Most Premier League fan remembers Aspas only as a Liverpool flop with the number 9 jersey. Aspas moved from boyhood club Celta Vigo to Liverpool for a deal estimated to be around £7.7 m, with Liverpool hoping to have unearthed a gem. However, that gem turns dregs, failing to score in any of his 14 league appearances.
After just one season, Liverpool decided that they have seen enough so they sent him on a season-long loan to Sevilla with an obligation to buy. In his season-long loan at the club, he was the joint top scorer in the Copa del Rey alongside Neymar with 7 goals and won the UEFA Europa League.
At the end of his season-long loan at Sevilla, the club signed him from Liverpool but sold him to Celta Vigo in the same transfer window. In every of his first 5 seasons at Celta Vigo, he scored in double digits.
In fact, in three of the 5 seasons, he won the Zarra Trophy awarded to the Spanish player with the most league goals in a season. As of December 2020, Aspas had won La Liga player of the month four times.
- Diego Forlan
Perhaps, the most notable and interesting English Premier League flop who became a star in another League. He was not just impressive in another league; he was extraordinary with his National team Uruguay.
Sir Alex Ferguson signed Forlan in 2001 following the attacker’s impressive form at Independiente in Argentina. In his first season in England, Forlan made 18 appearances but failed to score a single goal. The two seasons after were not impressive either, hence his transfer to Villarreal.
Impressively, Forlan scored 25 league goals in his first season with Villarreal and won the league’s top scorers award (2004/05). Also, he was awarded the European Golden Shoe award alongside Thierry Henry the same year. He left the club two seasons later for Atletico with 59 goals scored in 128 matches.
In his second season with Atletico Madrid (2008/09), Forlan beat Samuel Eto’o to the Spanish league’s top scorer’s award. He scored 32 league goals in 33 league appearances that season which earned him the Pichichi trophy. Again, he won the European Golden Shoe but this time it was not shared with anyone.
The next season (2009/10), Forlan played a key role as Atletico won the Europa League. He scored six times in the tournament, including two in the 2-1 win over Fulham in the final. He was voted as the man of the match in the final.
With his national team, he was just as impressive; he scored the most goals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup alongside Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, and David Villa.
Furthermore, he was voted into the FIFA World Cup dream team and won the Golden Ball and goal of the tournament title. By the time he retired, he was Uruguay’s highest goal scorer in history, a record which has since been broken by Luis Suarez.
Forlan eventually became so good that some Football fans think he is the caliber of player that could have won the Ballon d’Or.
There are several reasons why players struggle when they change clubs, especially to other countries. Culture, language, teammates, family are some factors that can affect their performances.
These 3 cases show that a player may fail to perform in one league but go on to become a star in another league.