‘Iwobi will never be like Jay-Jay’ – Yakubu hails Okocha as one of Nigeria’s best

Nigeria legend Yakubu Aiyegbeni has said there is no comparison whatsoever between Jay-Jay Okocha and his nephew Alex Iwobi.

According to the former Everton and Portsmouth striker, Okocha will always be in a league of his own, and it’s counterproductive to expect his relative to produce similar performances.

The ex-Arsenal and Everton player switched nationality from England to represent Nigeria in 2015 and has since played over 70 matches for the Super Eagles while scoring 10 goals.

The Fulham midfielder was also an integral part of the Nigeria side that finished as runners-up in the just-ended Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024), as he started every game in the Ivory Coast.

‘Iwobi will never be like Okocha’

His performance in the final against Ivory Coast, however, led to criticism from certain quarters, with some fans using Okocha’s impressive performances in the past as a rod to beat his nephew.

Speaking on the Feed the Yak podcast, Yakubu said the two players can't be compared because their skill sets are completely different.

He explained that, while Iwobi is more athletic and has pace, Okocha edges him in all other facets of the game, including ability, skill and intelligence, and urged Nigerians to desist from comparing both players.

Jay-Jay Okocha at 2004 AFCON
Photo by Icon Sport

“Alex Iwobi would never be like Jay-Jay [Okocha]. They [Nigerian fans] need to understand and stop comparing Alex Iwobi to Jay-Jay,” Yakubu stated.

“This guy is different. Alex Iwobi can run from here to Nigeria, from London to Nigeria. Jay-Jay cannot run like that but he has the ability, the skills and he’s very intelligent. He’s one of the best midfielders Nigeria has ever produced.”

Yakubu defends Iwobi in the wake of abuse

Yakubu also leapt to the defence of Iwobi after the former Arsenal midfielder was subjected to abuse on social media following Nigeria’s defeat in the AFCON final to Ivory Coast.

The 41-year-old cited his own costly miss during the 2010 FIFA World Cup group-stage game against South Korea and said he continues to be abused over the incident 14 years on.

He, however, noted that Nigeria has bigger problems than his missed chance or Iwobi’s AFCON final performance and called on fans to treat national team players better.

“Jay-Jay will say to me, ‘Yak, forget about it. I’ll turn the ball like this, turn the ball like that. I dey see you oo.’ There’s no one like Jay-Jay,” Yakubu said.

“Nigeria needs to let go. The problem in Nigeria is not football. They should focus on the reality in Nigeria than focus on Alex Iwobi, than Yak missing the goal. We have bigger problems in Nigeria than Alex Iwobi.”

Yakubu was capped 58 times by Nigeria from 2000 to 2012 and played in multiple World Cup and AFCON tournaments. He also scored 21 goals during his time with the Super Eagles.  

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Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an African sports writer, with bylines on DW, Al Jazeera, World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.