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Nigerian Players Who Have Played for Barcelona

by Thomaz Oseghale
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Samuel Okunowo

Barcelona, one of the most successful football clubs in the world, has had its fair share of international players from various countries. Nigeria, known for its talented footballers, has also contributed to the Barcelona squad over the years. In this article, we will take a look at two Nigerian players who have had the privilege of playing for Barcelona.

1. Samuel Okunowo

Samuel Okunowo, a talented defender, joined Barcelona on July 1, 1998, and stayed with the club until July 1, 1999. Before joining Barcelona, Okunowo played for FC Barcelona Atlètic.

After leaving Barcelona, he went on to play for SL Benfica. During his time at Barcelona, Okunowo played in 21 matches but did not score any goals.

2. Emmanuel Amunike

Emmanuel Amunike, an attacking player, joined Barcelona on December 11, 1996, and stayed with the club until July 1, 2000. Before joining Barcelona, Amunike played for Sporting CP.

After leaving Barcelona, he went on to play for Albacete Balompié. During his time at Barcelona, Amunike played in 26 matches and scored 1 goal.

So, who was the first Nigerian player to don the iconic Barcelona jersey?

Despite being plagued by injuries throughout his career, Okunowo had the opportunity to play alongside legendary players such as Xavi, Luis Figo, and Rivaldo during his time at Barcelona.

Okunowo made 21 appearances for Barcelona in various competitions. However, he never achieved the same level of fame as his counterparts.

The honor goes to Samuel Okunowo himself. Born in Ibadan, Okunowo signed with La Liga club FC Barcelona at the tender age of 18. In the 1998–99 season, he competed for a starting spot in the first team, battling it out with Michael Reiziger.

He managed a total of 21 appearances in all competitions, including 15 as a starter, as Barcelona went on to win the national championship.

Despite his initial success, Okunowo’s time at Barcelona was short-lived. After leaving Barcelona, he had two unremarkable loan spells at Portugal’s S.L. Benfica and Spanish second division club CD Badajoz. In June 2002, he was released by Barcelona.

Following his departure from Barcelona, Okunowo went on to play for teams in Greece, Romania, Albania, and Ukraine, with little impact. In 2007, he had trials at Northwich Victoria in the Conference National and Vilanova del Camí in the Spanish amateur leagues, but nothing came to fruition.

Two years later, he joined VB Sports Club in the Maldives. In October 2009, he signed with England’s Waltham Forest, playing in a league eight levels below the Premier League.

In February 2010, Okunowo attempted to return to top-flight football by undergoing a trial with Polish Ekstraklasa side Odra Wodzislaw. However, his efforts did not materialize into a contract. He faced a similar fate while looking for a club in Norway.

On 5 January 2012, Okunowo returned to his homeland and signed with Sunshine Stars F.C. for one Nigerian Premier League campaign.

He retired from professional football the following year at the age of 34.

In conclusion, while the number of Nigerian players who have played for Barcelona may be relatively small compared to players from other countries, their contributions have not gone unnoticed. Emmanuel Amunike and Gbenga Okunowo have left their mark on the club’s history, and Samuel Chukwueze could potentially join their ranks in the future. As football continues to grow in Nigeria and across Africa, it is possible that we will see more Nigerian players making their way to Barcelona and other top European clubs.

This article was updated 1 month ago

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