This week, our series on Nigerian stars, who played in their numbers for foreign clubs, continue with Premier League club, Chelsea Football club the focus, writes JOHNNY EDWARD
Unarguably, the most successful Nigerian player to have played for Chelsea. Mikel joined the Blues for £16m from Lyn Oslo in June 2006 after a controversial transfer tussle with Premier League giants Manchester United.
The 36-year-old gave over a decade of service to the Blues he joined as a fresh-faced 19-year-old, during which time he won every major honour, as well as an Africa Cup of Nations and a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics with Nigeria.
Mikel won a total of nine titles in 11 years at Stamford Bridge scoring six times and making 13 assists in 372 appearances.
The Nigerian was renowned for saving his best performances for the big occasion, and his highlight in a Chelsea shirt came on the club’s greatest night of all, the 2012 Champions League final, when he produced a masterful midfield display. Prior to the final, Mikel had been outstanding in both legs of the epic semi-final victory over Barcelona.
A strong, powerful midfielder with excellent positional sense and a sure touch, Mikel was a consistent presence in the Blues team during his time in west London. He left in 2017 having won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup four times, the League Cup twice, and the Champions League and Europa League, too.
His value to the team was always keenly felt by those who managed him and played alongside him during his 372 appearances for the Blues, and that figure puts him in the very top bracket of foreign players to have represented Chelsea.
At the time of his departure, only Petr Cech, Didier Drogba and Branislav Ivanovic had made more.
Moses switched Wigan Athletic for Chelsea in the summer of 2012 after he completed his transfer to the Blues just days after he played against them on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
A promising maiden season proved to be the best goalscoring term of Moses’s time at Stamford Bridge as he finished with double figures for goals.
After loan spell at Liverpool,Stoke City and West Ham, the Nigerian returned back to Chelsea for the 2016 season.
A change of manager, combined with Moses catching the eye in pre-season, saw Antonio Conte opt to keep him as part of the squad and that decision paid off to great effect in October when the Italian switched to a 3-4-3 system, utilising Moses and Marcos Alonso as wing-backs.
The alteration coincided with Chelsea’s remarkable rise to the top of the Premier League table, with goals against champions Leicester City and a Stamford Bridge winner at home to Tottenham endearing him to the Chelsea faithful once again.
His rapid transformation from winger to wing-back paid huge dividends and Moses was widely heralded as one of the main reasons why the 3-4-3 shape worked so well for the Blues.
By the end of the season, he had made 40 appearances, playing in all but four of the Blues Premier League games as the title returned to the Bridge once again. However, a fantastic individual and team campaign ended with a sour taste as Arsenal scuppered Chelsea’s dreams of completing the Double, with Moses sent off in a 2-1 FA Cup final defeat.
That setback was ultimately put right 12 months later as Moses featured throughout the 2018 final against Manchester United, in which Eden Hazard’s penalty proved the difference between the sides.
Having featured only six times under Maurizio Sarri, Moses departed on loan to Fenerbahce in January 2019.
Moses ended his time at Chelsea with 128 appearances and 18 goals to his name, as well as a Europa League, FA Cup and Premier League title.
Babayaro was the first Nigerian player to blaze the trail at Stamford Bridge when he joined the Blues in 1997 from Anderlecht.
His arrival brought stiff competition for the left back role with Graeme Le Saux but he managed to make the position his own as he went on to play over 200 games for the club scoring eight times and making six assists.
The Nigerian left back was also instrumental to Chelsea’s run in the 1999/2000 UEFA Champions League where they eventually lost to Barcelona. He was sent off in the second leg at Camp Nou for a second bookable offence after he fouled Luis Figo in the penalty box.
Babayaro won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Super Cup, FA Cup and FA Charity Shield during his time at Chelsea.
He was a popular figure at Chelsea and was a regular starter for the Blues prior to Roman Abramovich’s arrival in 2003.
Ola Aina joined Chelsea as an U-11 and made his youth team debut as a schoolboy in the 2012/13 season. He was included in the club’s pre-season tour of USA and got to play three matches in the International Champions Cup.
He made his club debut on August 23, 2016 when he came on as a 77th minute substitute for John Terry in Chelsea’s 3–2 win over Bristol Rovers in the EFL Cup.
Two months later the Nigerian made his Premier League debut in a 3–0 victory over Leicester City, replacing countryman Victor Moses in the 82nd minute.
Initially appearing destined to truly make the breakthrough into the Chelsea first team, Aina only featured three times for the Blues in the Premier League unable to hold down a first-team place.
Loan spells at Hull City and Torino followed before he signed permanently for the Italian club where he has flourished.
The defender spent seven years at Chelsea without making an official appearance for the Blues after arriving from Standard Liege in January 2012. He had loan spells at Middlesbrough, ADO Den Haag and Kasimpasa before finally quitting the west London club for Leganes in 2019.