Can Finidi George be crowned Nigeria's best winger?
On social media, Liverpool hapless goalkeeper Adrian San Miguel, whose poor clearance contributed his team’s painful defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter finals on March 11, was said to have singled out Finidi George as his best Nigerian player. Used to be known as the Green Eagles, the national team changed its official name to the Super Eagles in 1988 when the then Vice President Augustus Aikhomu announced this transition upon receiving the team that lost to Cameroon under controversial circumstances to claim the silver medal following the Maroc’88 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. It then got me thinking, in the Super Eagles era of the national team – i.e post 1988 – does Finidi Gerge deserve the title of Nigeria’s best winger to date (partly in line with Adrian’s thinking although the Liverpool man refers to him as his best player [which many Super Eagles fans would easily disagree] )? Over the past 32 years, Nigeria has produced very many exciting, lightning quick, explosive and dynamic wingers. In fact, even at times when we have struggled to produce players to fill certain posts across the pitch, the wings is an area where we seldom struggle to find viable candidates. This is partly because many of our forwards (like Aghaowa and Iwobi) who are more renowned for other roles in the Super Eagles could easily pass off as credible widemen. So, who is the best? Easily, it has to be Finidi George (in my humble opinion). Whereas others like Babangida, Ahmed Musa, Moses Simon, Onyekuru, Obinna Nsofor, Pius Ikedia, Samuel Kalu all have the speed of a ferrari, Finidi trumps them all with his vision, technical play, mature approach and crucially, quality of his end product which remained consistent throughout his career. One player that came close to Finidi when it comes to poise, panache and purposeful play is John Utaka. But he sort of faded too quickly and also did not always impose himself compellingly in national colours.
Emmanuel Amuneke was another supremely talented winger who often played on the opposite side of the wing to Finidi whilst later on Victor Moses stamped his authority as a reputable winger for the Super Eagles.
Among all of Super Eagles wingers, Finidi can also lay claim to the most outlandish goal celebration when he knelt, opened his lap to mimic the sight of a dog urinating after scoring a beauty of a goal with a chip made in heaven to be pulled off by a winger of supreme quality against Greece in the 1994 world cup. To have been an active Super Eagles fan during the Finidi George era was indeed a blessing for me because when he turned it on, Finidi always produced masterclass wing play of supreme quality.