Two Nigerians who have previously played for FC Barcelona
The smile on Asisat Oshoala’s face could fill the length of Lagos-Ibadan expressway and still spread beyond as she poses with the blue and red stripes of FC Barcelona. Oshoala “20”, it indicates. The 3 times women’s African Footballer of the Year has just agreed a deal that’ll see her play the rest of the season out—on loan—with FC Barcelona Femení from Chinese Women’s Super League champions, Dalian Quanjian. As she stands by the iconic emblem of the club that’s as rich in history and pedigree as it rich color— camera clicking away, excited board members chatting and giggling—she must have wondered how many Nigerians have had the spine-tinglingly honor of representing this European football juggernaut. Even if she is too inundated in the mind-numbing dopamine of excitement to think about it, you at home must have—oh! You didn’t too? Okay! We, at Spotkick, did at least.
In chronological order, here are the previous Nigerians who’s name have been in the blue and red kits of FC Barcelona:
The slick winger dazzled around oppositions and helped the team win the Copa del Rey that same season. He quickly became an enamored character in the dressing room, becoming friends with Luis Enrique and Carles Busquet—Sergio Busquet’s father.
Although he added 2 La Liga trophies to his haul at Camp Nou, persistent knee problem impaired his effectiveness and deprived him of a glittering Catalonia legacy as he was shipped off to Abacelte. Then, the decline that spiral into his eventual retirement began.
Samuel Gbenga Okunowo
Atthe 1997 UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup, Barcelona scouts, sent to monitor the progress of teenage Xavi, got their eyes fixed on another wonder: 18 year-old Samuel Okunowo. They watched in awe as the teenager fly down the right of Nigeria as he helped the Flying Eagles win the competition, beating Xavi’s Spain side 3-2 in the final.
Calls were made. Papers were filed. Trials were arraigned. Trials passed. Signature appended and FC Barcelona bought Okunowo straight from Shooting Stars of Ibadan for $14,000. Fittingly, for someone new to the intricate technicalities of European football, he was drafted for further refining with La Masia.
He rose through the ranks, surprising everyone with his resolves and results. And soon, senior coach, Luis Van Gaal, couldn’t further pretend Okunowo isn’t something special, he was promoted to the first team. With Michael Reizeger to contend the right-back role with, Okunowo sharpened all aspects of his game and become a formidable fullback. His exploits in subduing red-hot duo of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole in a Champions League match against Manchester United which ended 3-3 was legendary. But Luis Van Gaal favouring Reizeger, loaned Okunowo out to Benfica where he struggled for games before returning to Barcelona to discover he’s surplus to requirements. He was disposed to Greek side Ionikos where he began his steep decent into the sorry abyss of might-have-beens.
Honourable mentions (Players signed but didn’t play for FC Barcelona first team)
Shehu Idris Tẹjumọla4 Posts
Shehu Idris Tẹjumọla is a football fanatic, a voracious reader of football contents and an Indefatigable football writing junkie. Author of future Man Booker-winning, best-selling books.