Kanu: Still the best
One of the most successful African players to play in Europe
Born: Aug. 1, 1976, in Owerri, Nigeria
Clubs played for: Nwanko Kanu is one of the most successful African players ever to play in Europe — second only to three-time European Cup champion Samuel Eto'o — having won several major national and continental honours since he moved to Ajax from Iwuanyanwu Nationale in 1993. Papilo spent three seasons at Ajax, the start of a glittering career that has seen him don the jerseys of Inter Milan, Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth. During 13 years in Europe, Kanu has collected an enviable amount of winner's medals: three Eredivisie titles, three FA Cups, two Premier League titles, one UEFA Cup, one UEFA Super Cup and one Champions League crown.
International career: When Kanu broke into Ajax's starting lineup he also began leading Nigeria's offence. He was a member of the 1996 gold medal winning Olympic team, the 1998 and 2002 World Cup teams, and the 2006, 2008 and 2010 African Cup of Nations squads. In 16 years Kanu has made 79 appearances and notched 13 goals.
Why is he so special? Kanu is a poacher who seemingly is always in the right place at the right time. Although he is a competent dribbler, Kanu's most valuable traits are his tremendous balance and, even now at the age of 33, his quick reflexes.
His most famous moment: The most important tallies of Kanu's career came during the 1996 Summer Olympics semi-finals against Brazil when he scored two goals — a late equalizer and the golden goal in added time — that took Nigeria to the final, which it won 3-2 against Argentina.
He said it: "The question [considering Nigeria's first match against Argentina] is not how will we survive Argentina, but how will Argentina survive us?"
What they’re saying about him: "When you think he played at Inter Milan, won the Champions League with Ajax — and he’d had a heart problem. In training you’d pay to watch him some days. He could do things you’d never seen. What a lovely guy as well." — Harry Redknapp, former Portsmouth manager
Here is an interesting fact: In 1996 Kanu was diagnosed with a heart defect and underwent successful corrective surgery. In 2000, he founded the Kanu Heart Foundation to help children in African with heart ailments.