Europa League winners: Only 6 Nigerians have won

Europa League winners: Only 6 Nigerians have won
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How many Nigerians are Europa League winners? This question boggles the mind following the number of Nigerians in Europe.

While many fans, including Nigerians, are enamoured by the UEFA Champions League, they seem to be missing out on the exploits of several Nigerian players who have excelled in the Europa League.

Several Nigerian players are Europa League winners, and this piece is about them.

While we talk about the Europa League winners, we will also dig into the less successful ones who reached the final but failed to win.

So, how many Nigerian players are Europa League winners and how many reached the final but failed to win?

Nigerian Europa League winners

Only six Nigerian players can lay claim to being one of the numerous Europa League winners.

These six elite players played for the Super Eagles in their prime and defended the badge of top European clubs, bar one.

Below is the list of Nigerian players who are Europa League winners.

Nwankwo Kanu (Inter Milan – 1997/98)

Europa League winners: Kanu won with Inter milan
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Nwankwo Kanu joined Inter Milan from Ajax in 1997 for $4.7 million. After playing 46 minutes in their opening Europa League tie for the Serie A side, he underwent a medical examination at Inter, which revealed a telling heart defect.

The surgery kept him out of action until the quarter-final against Schalke 04, when he returned to the bench.

Kanu played 91 minutes in four games for Inter that season. He was an unused sub as the Serie A side became Europa League winners.

Taribo West (Inter Milan – 1997/98)

Europa League winners: Taribo West won it with Inter Milan
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Taribo West was a constant feature for Inter Milan as they romped to the title.

He started the season slowly with a 22-minute sub appearance in the 0-2 away win to Neuchâtel Xamax. 

He featured in every other game except the quarter-final first leg 1-0 win over Schalke 04. He returned in the second leg, scoring in a 1-1 daw.

Taribo played as a wingback, defender and in defensive midfield for Inter. 

In the final, Taribo also received an 82nd-minute red card as Inter beat Lazio 3-0.

Chidi Odiah (CSKA Moscow – 2004/05)

Europa League winners: Chidi Odiah won it with CSKA Moscow
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Chidi Odiah started the season for CSKA Moscow in the Champions League. After playing the first two games, he was injured and saw his team drop to the Europa League.

He returned to action in February 2005 as CSKA beat Benfica 2-0 in the Europa League.

Bar the second leg against Benfica, where he played 72 minutes in a 1-1 draw, Odiah played in every game his side played in the tournament.

Odiah also scored in a 4-0 quarter-final first-leg rout of AJ Auxerre, as CSKA became Europa League winners.

John Obi-Mikel (Chelsea -2012/13)

Europa League winners: John Obi Mikel won it with Chelsea
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Chelsea became the first Champions League winners to fail to make it out of the group stage the following season.

With John Obi-Mikel in the side, they dropped to the Europa League in 2012 and went on to win.

Chelsea lost only two games on their way to becoming Europa League winners (Steaua Bucharest and Rubin Kazan).

Of the nine games that Chelsea played in the Europa League, Mikel played only three, as Rafa Benitez did not repose enough faith in him.

However, Mikel was an unused sub in the final.

Victor Moses (Chelsea – 2012/13, 2018/19)

Europa League wiiners: Victor Moses won it with Chelsea
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Victor Moses is the only Nigerian who has won the Europa League more than once. The former Wigan Athletic winger won it on both occasions with Chelsea.

In the 2012/13 season, he was a fairly constant feature for the Blues. as they became Europa League winners for the first time.

Moses scored four goals in that campaign as Chelsea lifted a European Cup back-to-back. He scored two goals against Rubin Kazan and FC Basel over two legs.

In the 2018/19 season, injuries robbed him of the opportunity to impress Maurizio Sarri and only a bench warmer as Chelsea beat Arsenal in the final.

Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal – 2020/21)

Europa League winners: Samuel Chukwueze won it with Villarreal
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With COVID-19 ravaging the world, Villarreal took the opportunity to win their first major continental trophy since winning the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2003 and 2004.

Chukwueze was a constant feature for Unai Emery's side in the 2020/21 Europa League. He played in all the group games except the 4-0 thrashing of Maccabi Tel Aviv.

He scored the only goal as Villarreal beat Sivasspor.

After missing the Round of 32 matches, Chukwueze returned to action in the Round of 16 against Dynamo Kyiv.

Chukwueze also featured in the quarter-finals and the semi-finals, where Villarreal beat Arsenal 2-1 on aggregate. However, he missed the final against Manchester United due to injury as the Spanish side became Europa League winners.

Nigerian Europa League winners

Name Club Year
Nwankwo Kanu Inter Milan 1997/98
Taribo West Inter Milan 1997/98
Chidi Odiah CSKA Moscow 2004/05
John Obi Mikel Chelsea 2012/13
Victor Moses Chelsea 2012/13, 2018/19
Samuel Chukwueze Villarreal 2020/21

Other Europa League finalists

Sunday Oliseh with Borussia Dortmund
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Eleven Nigerians have reached the final of the less-fancied tournament but failed to become Europa League winners.

Following his triumph with Inter Milan in 1997/98, Nwankwo Kanu helped Arsenal reach the final of the Europa League. He was a 75th-minute substitute for Dennis Bergkamp.

Arsenal lost 5-3 on penalties after the game ended 0-0.

Two seasons later, Sunday Oliseh reached the final with Borussia Dortmund, but they lost 3-2 to Feyenoord, with Oliseh stuck to the bench for 90 minutes.

Two Nigerians clashed in the final of the 2004/05 season. Joseph Enakharire (Sporting CP) and Chidi Odiah (CSKA Moscow). 

Both players played for 90 minutes, as Sporting CP lost 3-1.

The following season, Yakubu Aiyegbeni helped Middlesbrough to the final. He was a 70th-minute substitute, but he could not stop a 4-0 loss to Sevilla.

Dickson Etuhu reached the final with Fulham in 2010, but they lost 2-1 to Athletico Madrid with Etuhu playing 90 minutes.

In 2011, Elderson Echiejile's Sporting Braga lost to FC Porto 1-0, with Echijile an unused sub.

Europa League winners: Alex Iwobi cored in the 2019 final
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Alex Iwobi was a 66th-minute sub as Arsenal lost to city rivals Chelsea 4-1. He and Joe Aribo are the only Nigerians to score in a Europa League final. Iwobi scored three minutes after coming on against Chelsea.

Victor Moses reached the final in 2019 with Inter Milan, as they lost 3-2 to Sevilla. He came on in the 79th minute.

Moses is the only Nigerian to reach the final of the Europa League final thrice. He is also the only player to play in two finals.

Calvin Bassey, Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun helped Glasgow Rangers reach the 2021/22 Europa League final against Eintracht Frankfurt. They lost 5-4 on penalties after the game ended 1-1.

Joe Aribo scored the opening goal in the 57th minute, but the Germans equalized two minutes later.

Calvin Bassey played the whole game, Joe Aribo was subbed off in the 101st minute, while Leon Balogun was an unused sub.

Nigerian Europa League finalists

Name Club Year
Nwankwo Kanu Arsenal 1999/2000
Sunday Oliseh Borussia Dortmund 2001/02
Joseph Enakarhire Sporting CP 2004/05
Yakubu Aiyegbeni Middlesbrough 2005/06
Dickson Etuhu Fulham 2009/10
Elderson Echiejile Sporting Braga 2010/11
Alex Iwobi Arsenal 2018/19
Victor Moses Inter Milan 2019/20
Joe Aribo Glasgow Rangers 2021/22
Calvin Bassey Glasgow Rangers 2021/22
Leon Balogun Glasgow Rangers 2021/22

This article was most recently revised and updated 1 month ago

Chooka Izuegbuna is a Sports Journalist with 20 years of experience in print, TV and Radio. He has worked with some of the top media houses in Nigeria, including NTA Network, Channels TV, TVC, Silverbird TV and MITV. Chooka broke his sports reporting teeth with The Game Football Weekly in 2003 as a cartoonist and reporter. Chooka has a passion for football and has been a fan of Enugu Rangers (over 30 years) and Real Madrid (Since 1996).