Who's the greatest? Yobo v Keshi

Which Nigerian man of the steel comes out on top in this bout as Goal.com continues to dig dip at heroes past and present

GOAL ANALYSIS     By Shina Oludare      Follow on Twitter  


The Fenerbahce defence stalwart Joseph Yobo is weighed up against the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations winning skipper Stephen Keshi. But Joey or the Big Boss, as they are popularly known by their fans will definitely not be pushed aside when it comes to football greats that have come out of the world’s most popular black nation. The duo are big characters in the centre back position that is one of the most sensitive in the round leather game.

With just 18 years separating this pair, the parallel between these men, one from Kono in Rivers State and the other from Asaba in Delta are unmistakable as they share fascinating similarities.

The defenders announced their arrival on the football map playing for the Nigeria U21 team also known as the Flying Eagles.

In the same vein, both cut their teeth in the Belgian League which helped in refining their raw skills unearthed in Nigeria. However, the biggest highlight of this comparison is that both led the Super Eagles to win the Africa Cup of Nations as fringe playing captains. What makes it more interesting is the fact that they both achieved this feat at age 32.

Such coincidence!

For all that they share in common there is of course one major difference. While Yobo’s undoubted talent is admired due to his consistency for both club and country despite playing as a right back and an attacking midfielder in his international career, his elegance made it look like he found even the toughest of tasks easy.

Keshi, by contrast, is a very popular figure due to his commanding influence on the football pitch, especially on his team-mates, little wonder he was nicknamed “the Big Boss”.

Even at these, the teaser is whether Yobo, who is the most capped player in Nigerian international football history, has since gotten the edge above his hero not in terms of appearance, but also in terms of distinction.

Should Yobo now become the point of allusion when it comes to discussing Nigerian defensive greats?




















1 Nations Cup
1 Turkish Super League
1 Turkish Cup


1 Nations Cup
2 West African Club Championship
2 Coupe Houphoet Boigny
1 Côte d'Ivoire League
1 Côte d'Ivoire Coupe
2 Belgian Cup
1 Belgian League 


CAF Awards-voted in best African XI 2007–08 season



Honestly speaking, comparing players from different eras is a subjective exercise as the players in question belong to separate generations and even flourished under different managers and teammates.

Nevertheless, what is beyond dispute is that Yobo deserves comparison with the man who captained the Super Eagles for eleven years, the longest in Nigeria.



No way! Keshi is greater. Although Joseph Yobo is Nigeria’s Mr consistent, he can never overtake his master.
                                            Thomson Oliha- Ex International


Rarely has a Nigerian player flourished for the national team in four completely different positions but Joseph did it stress free. As a Flying Eagles player, he did exploits as a striker, starring alongside Haruna Babangida and Hasimu Garba at the 10th World Youth Championship, Nigeria '99.

Even then Everton manager, David Moyes confessed after he was signed by the Goodison Park outfit: “He’s an all round player. As far as I’m concerned, he’s Nigeria’s best player and I’m sure he’ll go on to captain his country.’’

As a Super Eagles player, he had the priviledge to play in three different roles. As the right full back, he was impressive in that role. At the Korea/Japan World Cup in 2002, he picked up the ball from the rear and raced forward before floating a cross flicked in by Julius Aghahowa against Sweden. He had earlier played in the defensive midfield role in Nigeria’s lone goal loss to Argentina in that same competition.

He played every match and every minute of Nigeria’s 22 matches of the Africa Cup of Nations from 2002 to 2008. He is the only player to have achieved such feat.

In addition, it should also be acknowledged that Yobo has not benefited from the same level of media coverage that Keshi enjoyed, particularly at club level. The latter was stationed behind some of the finest midfielders ever to have played the game, during what was a golden age for Nigerian football. Yobo has also provided some moments of individual brilliance at major tournaments, like his goal in the LG Cup final in 2003 and screamer against South Africa at the 2004 Nations Cup.


Though they played in different eras, Keshi remains the big boss. He was more than a defender. Even in terms of achievements, Yobo is very far behind.                                        
                                       Kayode Tijani- Sports jounalist


In contrast, Keshi, usually seen as the Franz Beckenbauer of Nigerian football due to similar styles in on-field leadership, never had the luxury of trying in other positions like Yobo. Although, he ocassionally leapt forward when his team was in need of crucial goals, the St Finbarrs’ College discovery’s fotress was at the rear.

No wonder at a very tender age, he was able to pair defence stalwarts like Boardman Kenneth, Bright Omokaro and Yisa Shofoluwe in the heart of Nigeria’s defence. At club level, Keshi enjoyed the greater success, winning seven major trophies playing for two different clubs and capping it all with a Nations Cup win.

Despite his undeniable brilliance, Keshi was more injury prone, as evidenced by the knock that kept him out of the Algeria 90 Nations Cup and larger part of the 1994 Nations Cup, World Cup and eventually forced him out of football. One thing is certain - he has left an indelible mark in Nigeria’s football history as the longest serving Super Eagles skipper till date.

Yobo or Keshi, it tends to boil down to taste like who is your favourite James Bond actor.Yobo is more like Pierce Brosnan, an all rounder who is ruthless know for his dynamism. Keshi fits the Sean Connery role as a strong volatile genius with greater natural talent.  Lest we forget that football is a team game and Keshi - for now - remains the one you would rather have on your side.

Perhaps Yobo would be able to prove a worthy rival when he becomes a coach someday.