Nigeria have produced some of the continent’s finest football talents over the years, but not many are more prominent than arguably the country’s greatest playmaker
Former England star Kevin Davies has taken time to reflect on his time playing alongside Super Eagles legend Austin Jay-Jay Okocha at Bolton Wanderers.
Okocha arrived at the Reebok Stadium on a free transfer after the 2002 FIFA World Cup, following the expiration of his contract at Paris Saint-Germain.
Aged 28 at the time, Okocha initially struggled to adapt to the English game, but once the playmaker got going, there was no stopping him.
Okocha had it all: He could dribble past a defender in a blink. He could pass the ball long and seemed to throw it much longer. He could blast rocket shots from a distance and scored many fantastic goals.
And there were many excellent performances for Bolton in the English Premier League, including one against Tottenham that has made it into The Athletic’s all-time top 50 list.
Davies, who joined Bolton in 2003 and was teammates with Okocha until the Nigerian left the club in 2006, is still in awe of the midfielder’s immense natural ability.
Both played crucial roles in helping Bolton reach the final of the Football League Cup in 2004.
But Davies insists what fans and the video cameras capture about Okocha on match days were nothing compared to what his teammates witnessed and endured during training.
“You’d want to be on his team in training five-a-sides,” Davies told the Athletic.
“Because if you were against him he could make you look stupid.
“But he couldn’t do it in an arrogant way: he’d always have a little smile on his face (when he was making you look stupid). You couldn’t see the ball or where it went.
“He could do anything with the ball. He was a magician.”
During a remarkable playing career, Okocha played football at the highest level in Germany, Turkey, France, and England before retiring in 2008.