Nigerians in the Saudi Pro League: After Ighalo, who’s next?

Nigerians in the Saudi Pro League: After Ighalo, who’s next?
Credit: Icon Sport

The Saudi Pro League continues to dominate sports headlines around the world.

It is a busy transfer window, especially in the Middle East. More noteworthy are the high-profile players who have signed mouthwatering contracts with Saudi Pro League teams.

The big question is, does Saudi affluence also spellbind Nigerian players?

As the Saudi wave continues to sweep Europe's most-decorated players off their feet, you shouldn't be surprised to see Super Eagles stars join the bandwagon. Players like Wilfred Ndidi could be Saudi-bound if recent transfer rumours are anything to believe.

Nigerians currently playing in the Saudi Pro League

Now, more than ever, Saudi Pro League teams could have more Nigerian players in their ranks. Some like Odion Ighalo and Ahmed Musa went, conquered then left with a fat paycheck. Many more are set to join. Let's explore some top Super Eagles players in the Saudi Pro League.

Anthony Nwakaeme

With just an appearance for the Super Eagles, Nwakaeme's star seems to have shone brighter far away from home. He signed for Saudi Pro League side, Al-Fayha, in August 2022, making it to the team of the week thrice last season.

The Nigerian forward scored nine goals and provided three assists in 25 appearances for Al-Fayha. It is an impressive record, considering his age.

The 34-year-old Nigeria international has so far played for seven clubs since kicking off his international career 13 years ago at FC Universtatea Cluj, a Romania side.

Izuchukwu Jude Anthony

Jude Anothony is only 25, so being a Saudi Pro League star is something many would misconstrue to mean a waste of a career. The Nigerian currently plays for Al-Khaleej.

However, with no call-up to national duty so far, Jude Anthony's presence in the Saudi League is a culmination of previous brief stints at different clubs, starting with Haugesund, Jerv, Nest-Sotra, FC Spartak Trnava, and Hapoel Haifa.

He has so far made 23 appearances, once making the team of the week but no goal or assist to show for his efforts after one season in Saudi Arabia.

Stanley Ohawuchi

Stanley Ohawuchi kicked off his adventure in the Saudi Pro League after a €1.2 million acquisition by Al-Qadisiyah in 2017. Ohawuchi scored eight goals and provided 14 assists in 50 Saudi Pro League appearances spread across two seasons.

He now plays for Saudi's Division 1 side, Al Washm.

Ohawuchi's career started in Heartland Owerri in July 2010. Still, with little interest coming from Europe's top clubs, the right-footed Nigerian midfielder sought a move to Atletico Balerares in Spain, then moved to Malta, Egypt and later, Saudi Arabia.

Ex-Saudi Pro League Stars from Nigeria

Former Saudi Pro League Star Star, Ahmed Musa
Credit: Icon Sport

For players like Ighalo, a move to the Saudi Pro League is icing on the cake, especially after an illustrious career in Europe. The Nigerian recently poured cold water on passion as the reason why many are joining the Saudi Pro League.

Odion Ighalo

Ighalo's time in the Saudi Pro League seems to have ended and he currently has no team. Ighalo spent two seasons at Al-Hilal.

The powerful and talented forward made the Saudi Pro League debut at Al-Shabab in 2021 where he spent a season, then moved to Al-Hilal in January 2022. On many occasions, Ighalo made it to the Saudi Pro League team of the week.

Ighalo left his mark on a league fast gaining momentum, especially after recent high-profile acquisitions from England and other top European clubs.

At the onset, Ighalo likened the Pro League to England's Championship where players must work hard to cope with high-intensity, tactical and intelligent players.

However, recent remarks by the 34-year-old Nigeria international soon after his Al-Hilal contract ended negates his earlier stance. He said players joining the Saudi Pro League do so for the money – that it has nothing to do with passion.

According to Ighalo, Cristian Ronaldo went to Saudi Arabia because of a huge paycheck. He previously said CR7's move to Saudi Pro League would be a huge commercial boost for the league and most importantly, attract a large fanbase.

Ahmed Musa

Musa's 2018 World Cup heroics remain etched in many minds, but even more prominent is his illustrious football career. A  16.5 million move to Al-Nasr back in August 2018 ignited a debate about the future of Nigerians in the Saudi Pro League.

However, like many others before him, his time in Saudi Arabia ended after two seasons.

Musa currently plays for the Turkish side Sivasspor. A breakdown of his career stats in Saudi reeks of a player who made an impact when the time was right. Musa scored 9 goals and provided 14 assists in 50 Saudi Pro League appearances.

This article was most recently revised and updated 10 months ago

Okello Steve is a sports enthusiast and a professional writer with an education background in communication and journalism. For over ten years, Okello has been writing for the web, helping startups and new businesses craft engaging sports and casino content on various topics. As a passionate football lover and a supporter of Manchester United , Okello spends his time watching football with friends when he is not writing or into some adventure as a travel hobbyist.