20 teams compete in the top tier of Nigerian football league system, Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL), who are considered to be the best in the Nigerian football. However, in this post, we aim to introduce you with only 10 of these clubs; the clubs that have shined in the past decade.
So, which are the top 10 Nigerian clubs of the decade? To answer this question, we have actually chosen the top Nigerian clubs from among those clubs that not only compete in NPFL but also have won the most number of titles and trophies in the past decade.
In fact, some of these clubs have achieved some of their trophies a few years prior to 2010 which is by no means a good reason to exclude them from the best Nigerian football teams of the decade. They’re still among the best in Nigeria.
The list of the Best Nigerian Football Teams of the Decade starts with Enyimba International FC which is the most decorated football club in the Nigeria, too. And what about the rest of the list? Read on to know!
The best of the best and the Nigerian club that tops the list of Best Nigerian Clubs of the Decade, Enyimba International FC, which is also known as Enyimba, was founded in 1976 in the city of Aba.
Enyimba was not a top club from the very beginning; they actually shined from 2000 on as they won 8 Nigerian Premier League titles (3 of them after 2010) which is more than the number of league titles any other Nigerian club has ever won.
They have also won 4 Nigerian FA Cups (two of them after 2010) and 4 Nigerian Super Cups (again two of them after 2010). In terms of continental honors, Enyimba have won two CAF Champions League titles and two CAF Super Cups all between 2003 and 2005. They are also the first Nigerian club to have won the CAF Champions League in the history of Nigerian football.
And the interesting thing is that they repeated their success by winning their second consecutive CAF Champions League in the next year (2004) and became the first and only Nigerian team to have won two CAF Champions League titles, let alone doing that in two successive years!
Besides winning two CAF Champions Leagues, Enyimba have made 8 appearances in the CAF Champions League three of which have been after 2010 and in two of which they reached semi-final stage.
They have also made two appearances in CAF Confederation Cup in the past decade in one of which they reached semi-finals. And did you know what Enyimba mean in Igbo language? People’s elephant. Maybe the same elephant that is on their club logo?!
The second among the top 10 Nigerian clubs of the decade, Kano Pillars was founded in 1990 in Kano city of Kano state in Nigeria, and by the former chairman of Nigeria Football Association, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima.
Some great Nigerian players like Abiodun Baruwa, who has played for Swiss, Austrian, and British clubs, Ahmed Musa, who has served the Premier League club, Leicester City, in his footballing career, and Sani Kaita, wo has played for Sparta Rotterdam - the oldest football club in the Netherlands - are all products of Kano Pillars.
And do you know what is their nickname? Ahly Killers! Ahly actually refers to Al Ahly of Egypt, and Killers refers to when Kano Pillars beat Al Ahly on aggregate in 2009 Champions League group stage and made their way even to semi-finals where they were beaten by Heartland, another Nigerian club.
Among the best Nigerian football teams of the decade, Kano Pillars have won the most number of Nigerian Premier League titles between 2010 and 2020, namely three titles from 2011 to 2014, after Enyimba International FC. They have also won another NPL title in 2007-08 season, (4 in total) and finished runners-up in 2009-10 season.
Kano Pillars are also the winners of Nigerian FA Cup in 2019 and Nigerian Super Cup in 2007-08 season. They also finished runners-up in 1991 and 2018 editions of Nigerian FA Cup and 2012 edition of Nigerian Super Cup.
As of their appearances in the CAF Champions League, Kano Pillars have made 5 appearances in the African competition, namely in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015, and even could make their way to the semi-finals of the 2009 edition of the competition.
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Another Nigerian club among the top 10 Nigerian clubs of the decade, Heartland FC was founded in 1976 in the Owerri city of Imo state in Nigeria.
The club was first named Spartans FC, later changed its name to Iwuanyanwu Nationale, and finally to Heartland FC. If it was not for their relegation to Nigeria National League Southern Conference - the second tier in the Nigerian football league system - in 2016, they were now among the top Nigerian clubs that have never been relegated from the Nigerian Premier League.
Heartland FC have four nicknames: Spartans, Naze Millionaires, The Hearts, and Soccer Scientists - they study soccer?! They had their most successful years between 1987 and 1993 when they reaped four consecutive Nigerian Premier League titles from 1987 to 1990.
They also won three Nigerian FA Cups one of which was in 1988 - the other two were in 2011 and 2012, and also reached the final of African Cup of Champions Clubs in 1988 where they lost to Entente de Sétif of Algeria and finished runners-up.
And why Heartland FC are chosen as one of the best Nigerian football teams of the decade? Because although they have won no Nigerian Premier League title in the past decade, they have been the winners of two Nigerian FA Cups in 2011 and 2012 and two Nigerian Super Cups in the same years - somehow they have shined in these years despite winning no league titles.
In the past decade, they have also made two appearances in CAF Confederation Cup, namely in 2012 and 2013, and one appearance in CAF Champions League in 2010, not to mention that they reached the final of 2009 edition of CAF Champions League and semi-finals of 2000 CAF Cup.
They have also had five appearances in African Cup of Champions Clubs in two of which, namely the 1990 and 91 editions of the competition, they reached semi-finals.
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One of the best Nigerian clubs of the decade, Akwa United was founded in 1996 in Uyo city of Akwa Ibom state in Nigeria.
Maybe in terms of the number of titles and trophies won so far, there are better Nigerian clubs that can surpass Akwa United in that regard, however, what is important about Akwa United is that they have earned all their titles after 2010 meaning that in terms of the best Nigerian football teams of the decade, they rate better than the clubs who have won more titles.
In fact, Akwa United have won no league title so far, but they have won two Nigerian FA Cups in 2015 and 2017, and one Nigerian Super Cup and Nigerian Super Four in 2016. They have also made two CAF Confederation Cup in 2016 and 2018 making their way to the first and third round of the competitions, respectively.
Despite having won no Nigerian Premier League title, Akwa United got very close to that in 2017-18 season’s NPL where they finished second with only two points behind the league leaders, Lobi Stars - they actually got 41 points from 24 matches in that season.
Enugu Rangers are not only one of the best Nigerian football teams of the decade but also one of the best Nigerian teams ever in the history of Nigerian football, if you ask us.
They have won seven Nigerian Premier League titles so far - only one behind Enyimba International - one of which has been earned in the past decade: 2016 NPL. They have also won 6 Nigerian FA Cups - even more than Enyimba International - again one of which has been earned after 2010 - actually in 2018.
It is not yet over! Enugu Rangers are the winners of one Nigerian Super Cup in 2004 and one African Cup Winners' Cup in 1977. They also finished runners-up in the 1975 edition of African Cup of Champions Clubs.
As for the number of their appearances in continental competitions, Enugu Rangers have made more than 10 appearances in CAF Champions League - again more than Enyimba International - two of which have been in the past decade, 2 appearances in CAF Cup, 2 appearances in CAF Cup Winners' Cup, and 4 appearances in CAF Confederation Cup three of which have been after 2010.
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And if you just want to know where Enugu Rangers is based, we should say it is an Enugu-based club in the state of Enugu, Nigeria. The club was founded in 1970 and uses the 22,000-sit Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium as its home.
The stadium has a higher capacity than the Enyimba International Stadium that can only hold 16,000 visitors meaning that Enugu Rangers matches probably get more attendance than those of Enyimba International.
Among the best Nigerian football teams of the decade who have won at least one NPL title in the past decade, Lobi Stars may not be the most decorated football club in Nigeria but it is for sure among the most successful Nigerian clubs. The club was founded in 1981 in the city of Makurdi in Benue State of Nigeria.
Lobi Stars are the two-time winner of Nigerian Premier League title, once in 1999 and a second time in 2018. They have also won the Nigerian Super Cup in the same years mentioned, and one Nigerian FA Cup in 2003; and in the 2005 edition of the competition they finished runners-up as they lost the title to Enugu Rangers.
As for the number of their appearances in continental competitions, Lobi Stars have made two appearances in CAF Champions League, three appearances in CAF Confederation Cup, and one appearance in WAFU Club Championship which is a competition between West African clubs. From among these appearances three of them have been made in or after 2010.
Founded in 1988 as Eagle Cement in Port Harcourt city of Rivers state in Nigeria, Dolphins FC is the only club among the top 10 Nigerian clubs of the decade that is no more! Ja! You heard right!
The club is no more, but “no more” doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist anymore; it has been just merged with another Nigerian club, called Sharks FC, to form a new club named Rivers United (in 2016).
Based on the number of titles won, Dolphins FC were actually among the best Nigerian football teams of the decade before 2016 with three Nigerian Premier League titles one of which was earned in 2011 and 4 Nigerian FA Cups, all earned after 2000.
They also made 3 CAF Champions League appearances one of which was after 2010, one CAF Cup Winners' Cup appearance and three appearances in CAF Confederation Cup in the 2005 edition of which they finished runners-up.
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Dolphins FC even got relegated once in 2007 during their history, and only by one point, however, they won the same year edition of the Nigerian FA Cup over Enugu Rangers to prove that they are still in the game!
Among the best Nigerian football teams of the decade, Plateau United was founded in 1975 in Jos city of Plateau state in Nigeria. Although the club has earned only 2 titles in its history, it has acquired one of them in the past decade, so, that gives it the ticket to be among the top 10 Nigerian clubs of the decade, considering that some of the teams in the Nigerian Premier League have earned no titles or earned them before 2010, though the number of their titles may be more.
The interesting thing about Plateau United is that it is their first decade in the Nigerian Premier League - they actually got promoted to the NPL in 2010-11 season.
Maybe for a team that has been promoted to the top-tier league of its country in no longer than 10 years winning the league title is a great achievement. And did you know that Plateau United are the current season’s Nigerian Premier League leaders?
Plateau United have also won the 1999 edition of the Nigerian FA Cup, and finished runners-up in the same competition in 1993 and 1998. They have also appeared once in the CAF Champions League in 2018 and once in CAF Cup Winners' Cup in 2000 where they were eliminated in the first round.
Not every team that is among the best Nigerian football teams of the decade has to compete in the Nigerian Premier League, and that is the case about Kaduna United.
Although they are not currently competing in the Nigerian Premier League they have won one Nigerian FA Cup in 2010 and made one appearance in CAF Confederation Cup in 2011 where they could even advance to quarter-finals stage.
So, if we just compare them, in regard to their achievements in the past decade, to other teams who are currently competing in the Nigerian Premier League, we should say that they have been more successful than, say, half of the teams in NPL, because some of these teams have had no achievement at all and some of them have had some but prior to 2010 that doesn’t count for their success in the past decade.
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As for their recent promotion and relegation history, Kaduna United were once relegated from the Nigerian Premier League in 2007, but just one year later they got promoted again to the Nigerian major league. However, they got relegated again in 2011-12 season and since then have never gained a promotion.
Like Kaduna United, Bayelsa United are also not competing currently in the Nigerian Premier League, however, they have earned two titles during the time they played in the NPL: One Nigerian Premier League title and one Nigerian Super Cup both in 2009 which could be counted almost as their achievements in the past decade.
After their relegation to the Nigeria National League - the second tier in the Nigerian football league system, Bayelsa United let many of their players leave the club just because they didn’t have enough budget to pay their salaries.
And the story of their relegation is somehow sad: they just got behind in relegation zone by one point, and worse than that was that they were not given three points in a match against Wikki Tourists where their opponents left the pitch amidst the play.
However and despite all their problems, Bayelsa United got back in the Nigerian Premier League again in 2012, but again after three years were relegated again in 2015.
We can say they shined at the start of the past decade not only by winning two titles but also by making their way to CAF Confederation Cup semi-finals in 2009. They have a great potential to grow but they have also problems to cope with, problems that may hinder them on their way to the top.
As we already mentioned, we just covered the Nigerian clubs in this post that have earned achievements in the past decade, not matter if they are not in the top-tier Nigerian league now. However there are still top Nigerian clubs that although they have had no achievement in the past decade, they have won a number of titles and trophies prior to that which makes them great.
Some of these clubs include: