The Spanish football pyramid is regarded as one of the best football pyramids on the entire planet and playing in Spain is definitely a dream for any footballer who wants to be regarded as being one of the top stars in the game.
Some Nigerian footballers regularly grace the field in the top two divisions (La Liga and Liga 1/2/3) of Spain whether through substitute appearances or as starters in their respective clubs. There also, are those who are not in the spotlight like Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal), Ramon Azeez (CD Lugo), Moses Simon (Levante), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes) and Ikechukwu Uche (Gimnastic) who still ply their trade in Spain but are relatively unknown to the Nigerian public.
Here are five of such Nigerian footballers who play in Spain.
Cedric as he is generally referred to was Born in Benin City, moving to Spain in 1996 when he was two. He joined RCD Mallorca’s youth setup in 2008, and made his senior debuts with the reserves in the 2013–14 campaign, scoring 28 goals in Tercera División (Spanish fourth tier).
On 14 December 2014, Cedric made his professional debut, replacing fellow youth graduate Abdón Prats in a 1–1 home draw against CD Numancia for the Segunda División championship. On 27 August of the following year, he was loaned to Valencia CF Mestalla, which is the reserve team of Valencia.
On 6 August 2018, free agent, Cedric signed a one-year deal with CF Fuenlabrada in the Segunda División B and is one player that the NFF should monitor as he rises amongst the ranks in football.
The Kaduna born striker plays for Celta Vigo B in the Spanish Segunda division B – Group 1, a club he joined on July 11, 2018.
In July 2016, after scoring four goals in nine apps, Apeh was promoted to Alcala’s first team but weeks later, he was sold for 400,000 euros to Spanish fourth division side Lorca FC’s B team making his debut for the first team in September. In 2017, he was promoted to the first team making his debut in August as he provided the assist for his teams second goal. He scored his first goal two months later in a 2-2 home draw against CD Tenerife.
Manu Apeh is definitely a player to watch out for in Spain.
Another young Nigerian that plays in Spain is Uyo-born left Winger, Israel Akpan Peter who plays for the B team of Cadiz. Akpan started his career in the Andalusian city of Cadiz as he joined the academy a few years after his family moved to Spain from Nigeria. The 20 year old signed his first professional contract in July 2017 and is eligible to play for both Nigeria and the Spanish National Teams.
The forward is one player that the NFF should monitor as he should be drafted in the Aigbogun-led Flying Eagles or the Dream team for the AFCON U23 championships and the Olympics and the player would definitely need that spotlight from the Olympic games to help engineer a move to a bigger club.
James Omonigho Igbekeme is perhaps the only player amongst the group who plays for a more recognizable club in Real Zaragoza joining the club June 2018.
In 2017, Igbekeme signed for Portuguese Liga Pro side Gil Vicente F.C. making his professional debut as a starter on 6 August in a game where he was named in the starting XI and scored the winner as his side defeated FC Porto’s B team 2-1 away from home.
In October, Igbekeme scored a brace in a 4–0 home routing of Benfica B as he finished the campaign with five goals in 32 appearances.
Perhaps the most experienced of the group is none other than the 6foot central Midfielder, Kenechukwu Uchenwa who has been playing professionally in the Iberian Peninsula for nine years after he first signed with Real Mallorca in 2010 when he was 18. Kenechukwu was born June 3rd, 1991 in Enugu and trained with the youth team of Enugu Rangers before sealing a deal to Mallorca. Kene has represented six different clubs in the second and third tier of the Spanish football pyramid and is in his second stint at UE Cornella in the Segunda division B – Group 3. Kenechukwu is one player that should be called up to the National team as he poses the qualities of a typical African CDM. Moreover, he is also a utility player as he can also be lined up as a central defender, which is one position in which we do not have much alternatives save for the like of the Oyibo Wall and Leganes’s Kenneth Omeruo.
Here is a bonus:
JOSÉ IGNACIO UCHE TABUENCA
Ignacio Uche is one name that most individuals are not even familiar with and one that no one expects to be on this list, but gets an honourable mention as his mother is of Nigerian descent. Nacho Uche is a nineteen year old central defender that plays for AD Almudevar on loan from Spanish La Liga side SD Huesca and he also is eligible to play for Nigeria and the Spanish National teams.
There are also a host of other Male and female Nigerian stars who ply their trade in Spain including the ones like our bonus star who have Spanish ancestry. But these are the ones who seem likely in my view to break out from the den of obscurity into stardom.