In the second of Premier League cult hero series, we look at former Arsenal, West Brom and Portsmouth star Nwankwo Kanu. The flamboyant Nigerian international had a long and prolific career in which he was christened African Player of the Year on two seperate occasions.
Name: Nwankwo Kanu
Date of birth: 1st August 1976
Place of birth: Owerri, Nigeria
Clubs: Iwuanyanwu Nationale (1992-93), Ajax (1993-96), Inter Milan (1996-99), Arsenal (1999-04), West Bromwich Albion (2004-06), Portsmouth (2006-12)
Honours: Nigerian Premier League, Eredivisie (x3), Champions League, UEFA Cup, Premier League (x2), FA Cup (x3), African Footballer of the Year (x2)
Who signed him? Initially picked up by Ajax and then, via a spell at Inter Milan, Arsene Wenger brought Kanu to North London for a modest fee of £4 million in 1999. He repaid his manager’s faith with 30 goals over a four year spell, including playing a small part in Arsenal’s famous Invincibles season.
Best moment: It would have to be the summer of 1996 when Kanu captained Nigeria to a gold medal in the Atlanta Olympics.
Kanu scored twice in injury time in the semi-final, to give Nigeria a 4-3 win over tournament favourites Brazil. They were then able to overcome Argentina in the final to take the gold.
Neither side were messing around either. The Argentina squad included the likes of Roberto Ayala, Javier Zanetti, Roberto Sensini, Diego Simeone, Hernan Crespo and Ariel Ortega. The Brazil squad was even more daunting, featuring Dida, Roberto Carlos, Bebeto, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Juninho.
To cap his year off, he was then crowned African player of the year as well as sealing a move to Italian giants Inter Milan.
Worst moment: Overall seemingly one of the good guys, Kanu remains a popular figure among the Arsenal fans and there isn’t a lot to criticise him for. However, his Arsenal debut was one to remember for unfortunate reasons.
In an FA Cup tie against Sheffield United, the score was tied 1-1 in the 80th minute when The Blades put the ball out of play in order for an injured player to be treated. Ray Parlour took the throw and attempted to return the ball to United, however Kanu had other ideas.
He took control of the ball and, with the Sheffield United players unable to oppose him, he crossed the ball to Marc Overmars who scored the winner. Even Arsene Wenger, who famously never saw anything negative his team did, accepted that it was incorrect and agreed for the match to be replayed. Arsenal won.
Fun fact: Kanu is the only player in footballing history who has won the Premier League, the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup and been relegated from the Premier League. It was undeniably an action packed career!