Champions League: Five Nigerian Players Seek To End 10-year Drought 

Only three Nigerian players have had the honour of lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy, the most recent being 10 years ago.

The stage is set for the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League group stage draw in Istanbul, and fans around the world are understandably excited.

The situation is similar in Nigeria, where the country’s player representation in the group stage has increased in recent seasons.

While the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo will be absent (unless he makes a late move from Manchester United), at least five Nigerian players are vying for glory with their respective clubs this season.

Let us spotlights these five Nigerian players who will battle to end the wait for another Nigerian Champions League winner after the heroics of Finidi George, Kanu Nwankwo, and John Obi Mikel.

Mikel was the last Nigerian to lift the Champions League trophy, and he did so with Chelsea 10 years ago.

While there are no Nigerians at Chelsea anymore, they are at other clubs that have a fighting chance of conquering Europe, although the odds are heavily stacked against them.

Victor Osimhen (Napoli)

Apart from being the most costly, Osimhen is the most visible Super Eagles player in this year’s Champions League.

Napoli spent big to sign Osimhen from Lille for big occasions like the Champions League.

Though Napoli missed out on the Scudetto after an incredible run in the league but Osimhen’s 14 goals in the Italian Serie A last season were enough to help Napoli return to the Champions League.

However, Osimhen and Napoli face a difficult path because they are in Pot 3.

Victor Osimhen

With two goals in two games so far, Napoli will be delighted to see Osimhen continue in that vein when the focus shifts to the Champions League.

Osimhen already demonstrated his quality last season with four goals in the Europa League, but he will need to do even more if Napoli are to win this highly coveted European club football trophy.

Zaidu Sanusi (Porto)

If FC Porto wins the Champions League this season, Sanusi will be the first Nigerian defender to do so, as none of the previous three Nigerian winners (Mikel, Finidi, and Kanu) was a defender.

While always doing his job at the back, Sanusi is also very effective in going forward, and he scored one of the goals that helped FC Porto win the title last season.

Zaidu Sanusi (PHOTO CREDIT: Goal.com)

Last season, Porto were eliminated from the group stage after finishing behind eventual runners-up Liverpool and Atletico Madrid.

Though they are not one of the favourites, Porto could get an ‘easy’ draw as they are in Pot 1.

Calvin Bassey (Ajax)

After a blistering run that saw him play in the Europa League final last season with Rangers, Bassey would hope to go all the way, this time, with Ajax in the Champions League.

Incidentally, two of Nigeria’s three Champions League winners Finidi and Kanu did so playing for Ajax and that should be a big motivation for Bassey.

Bassey, 23, also plays from the back like Sanusi; meaning the Champions League will be extra special as no Nigerian defender has ever won the diadem

Calvin Bassey

Ajax have enjoyed a great deal of European success with four Champions League titles to their name, but it is important to note their last title was as far back as 1995.

Alfred Schreuder’s men should get a ‘favourable’ path this season as they are seeded in pot 1 with the big boys.

Akinkunmi Amoo (FC Copenhagen)

After cutting his teeth in the Swedish league, Amoo will play on one of football’s biggest stages.

His Danish club FC Copenhagen qualified for the group stage of the Champions League following a 2-1 aggregate victory over Turkish Super Lig champions, Trabzonspor, in the playoff round.

Akinkunmi Amoo

Even though nothing suggests Amoo and Copenhagen can ruffle more feathers in the group stage, they will hope to give their very best shot.

Being placed in Pot four points to a potentially tough draw. It will be an enjoyable experience for Amoo to savour the Champions League moments for as long as it lasts with Copenhagen.

Samson Tijani (RB Salzburg)

Currently down and out with a severe injury, Tijani was in Salzburg’s Champions League squad last season, though he did not get any minutes.

Even if he would break into the Salzburg squad, the Austrian team must make it out of the Group stage for the former Golden Eaglets’ captain to feature in the Champions League this season.

Salzburg made it through the group stage last season before being knocked out in the next phase of the competition.

Samson Tijani

Meanwhile, Salzburg also have another player of Nigerian descent, Bryan Okoh, on their team.

Okoh, 19 was born to a Nigerian father and Congolese mother in Houston, Texas.

While he has already played for Switzerland’s youth teams, he is still eligible to play for four countries – USA, Nigeria, Congo, and Switzerland.

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