Boniface: 4 Nigerian Invincibles who have completed unbeaten league seasons

A Victor Boniface strike set Bayer Leverkusen on their way to completing a memorable invincible Bundesliga season on Saturday afternoon, a feat unprecedented in the history of the German top flight.

Across the globe, the beautiful game produces moments of magic and teams that etch their names in history. One such mark of greatness is the incredible achievement of going an entire league season undefeated.

There have been clubs that have won their respective leagues without losing a game, like Ajax Amsterdam, Arsenal (2003-04 season), and Juventus (2011-12). However, there are also a handful of Nigerian footballers who have accomplished this remarkable feat in various leagues around the world. 

This article explores the stories of four such Nigerians: Finidi George, Nwankwo Kanu, Boniface, and Nathan Tella.

Finidi George: Orchestrator of an unbeaten season

Finidi George's story of an unbeaten league season is a tale of dominance in the Dutch Eredivisie with Ajax Amsterdam.

The Super Eagles coach was a crucial member of the legendary Ajax squad that achieved the remarkable feat of going undefeated throughout the 1994-95 Eredivisie season. This iconic team, under the guidance of manager Louis van Gaal, dominated the Dutch league, showcasing a brand of attacking football that thrilled fans worldwide.

George, a right-winger known for his pace, accurate crosses, and dribbling skills, was a key cog in Ajax's attacking machine. He played a pivotal role in creating chances for his teammates, especially the prolific strike partnership of Jari Litmanen and Marc Overmars. His pinpoint crosses and ability to weave past defenders were instrumental in unlocking opposing defenses.

Victor Boniface: 4 Nigerian Invincibles who have completed unbeaten league seasons
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The AFCON gold medalist scored 8 goals and had 9 assists in 30 appearances in the league, but Finidi's influence went beyond raw numbers. He was a constant threat on the right flank, stretching defenses and creating space for his teammates. His impact on the team's overall attacking play was undeniable.

Finidi's leadership and experience were also valuable assets for the young Ajax team. He, alongside fellow Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu, provided a strong African presence in the squad. Their experience and technical ability helped shape the team's attacking philosophy.

Finidi George's contribution to Ajax's historic unbeaten season remains etched in the club's memory. He was a vital piece of the puzzle, a player whose creativity and attacking prowess played a significant role in their dominance.

Nwankwo Kanu: A double dose of Invincible glory

Nwankwo Kanu, a name synonymous with elegance and ingenuity on the pitch, boasts a unique feat in football history – he achieved unbeaten league seasons not once, but twice. 

1. Eredivisie Dominance (1994-95):

  • League: Eredivisie (Netherlands)
  • Club: Ajax Amsterdam

Just like his teammate Finidi George, Kanu also experienced an unbeaten league season with Ajax Amsterdam. This occurred in the 1994-95 Eredivisie season.

By this time, Kanu had established himself as a key player for Ajax. His creativity, dribbling skills, and eye for goal made him a constant threat for opposing defenses. He formed a formidable attacking partnership with players like Jari Litmanen and Andy van der Meyde, contributing significantly to Ajax's dominance.

During the unbeaten 1994-95 season, Kanu made 18 appearances in the Eredivisie, scoring 10 goals. These impressive stats showcase his pivotal role in Ajax's attacking force. His creativity and goalscoring prowess were instrumental in propelling the team to an undefeated league title.

2. The Invincible Treble (2003-04):

  • League: Premier League (England)
  • Club: Arsenal

Kanu was part of the legendary Arsenal squad under Arsène Wenger, famously nicknamed “The Invincibles.” This iconic team accomplished the incredible feat of going through the entire 2003-04 Premier League season without a single defeat.

While not always a regular starter due to the fierce competition within the squad, Kanu played a valuable role as a versatile attacker. His ability to play across the frontline, his vision, and his link-up play were crucial when he came off the bench. He contributed significantly to the team's overall attacking rhythm.

Victor Boniface: 4 Nigerian Invincibles who have completed unbeaten league seasons

Despite not being a starter for most of the season, Kanu's impact shouldn't be underestimated. He made 10 appearances in the league, scoring 1 goals. More importantly, his positive influence and experience in the dressing room were invaluable for the team's morale and overall success.

Kanu's ability to adapt and excel in different teams and leagues highlights his exceptional talent and versatility. He remains a legend not only for Arsenal fans but also for his contribution to Ajax's historic achievements.

Joseph Ayodele-Aribo: The engine behind Rangers' invincible charge (2020/2021 Season)

Nigerian midfielder Joseph Ayodele-Aribo was a pivotal figure in Glasgow Rangers' historic unbeaten Scottish Premiership season under manager Steven Gerrard (2020/2021 season). His versatility, work ethic, and attacking contributions were key components of the team's success.

Rangers achieved a remarkable feat, going through the entire Scottish Premiership season without a single defeat during the 2020/2021 season. This dominance included 32 wins and 6 draws across their 38 league games.

Aribo's versatility proved to be a valuable asset for Gerrard. He was deployed strategically throughout the season, showcasing his ability to excel in various positions:

  • Central Midfield (16 Appearances)
  • Attacking Midfield (8 Appearances)
  • Right Midfield (4 Appearances)
  • Right Winger (1 Appearances)
  • Left Back (2 Appearances)
Olympique Lyon v Rangers – Trophée Veolia – Groupama Stadium
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This tactical flexibility allowed Gerrard to adapt his game plan and exploit weaknesses in opposing teams.

While his positional versatility is impressive, Aribo's impact goes deeper. He contributed directly to 10 goals throughout the season, scoring 6 himself and providing 4 assists. This highlights his ability to not only control the midfield but also contribute significantly in the attacking third.

Calvin Bassey: A Glimpse of Future Glory in Rangers' Unbeaten Run (2020/2021 Season)

While his role with Rangers during their historic 2020/2021 Scottish Premiership campaign was more limited, Calvin Bassey’s contributions shouldn't be overlooked.

This season marked a breakout year for the young Nigerian defender. Despite making only 8 appearances in the league, Bassey showcased his potential and versatility.

Steven Gerrard primarily utilized Bassey at left-back, but he also displayed his adaptability with a single deployment as a central defender. This willingness to learn and adapt to different roles highlights his dedication and tactical intelligence.

Rangers v Nice – Trophée Veolia – Groupama Stadium
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Even with limited playing time, Bassey was undoubtedly part of a historic Rangers squad. Being involved in such a remarkable achievement, alongside established Nigerian stars like Aribo and Leon Balogun, was a valuable learning experience for the young defender.

Leon Balogun: A Guiding Force in Rangers' Unbeaten Triumph (2020/2021 Season)

Rounding out our list of Nigerians who participated in Rangers' unbeaten league run is the experienced Leon Balogun. During Rangers' historic 2020/2021 Scottish Premiership campaign, Balogun served not only as a valuable player but also as a mentor to younger Nigerian teammates like Aribo and Bassey.

Balogun brought a wealth of experience to the Rangers backline, having played across various leagues throughout his career. His leadership and defensive solidity were crucial assets for manager Steven Gerrard.

Balogun featured in 19 league matches, contributing significantly to Rangers' defensive dominance. While clean sheets weren't mentioned, his three assists highlight his ability to contribute not just defensively but also offensively with well-timed passes.

Rangers v Heart of Midlothian – Scottish Cup – Final – Hampden Park
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While primarily deployed as a central defender (17 appearances), Balogun showcased his adaptability by filling in at right-back on two occasions. This versatility provided valuable cover for Gerrard when needed.

Beyond his on-field contributions, Balogun's experience likely played a vital role off the pitch. His mentorship and leadership would have been invaluable for young Nigerians like Aribo and Bassey, helping them adapt to the demands of top-flight football and contribute to the team's success.

Victor Boniface: Spearheading Leverkusen's historic season

Nigerian striker, Victor Boniface, has become a household name in Germany this season (2023/2024). His contributions have been nothing short of phenomenal, playing a key role in Bayer Leverkusen's remarkable achievements:

Neverlusen, as they are fondly called, completed a historic feat – an entire Bundesliga season without a single defeat. This accomplishment included 28 wins and 6 draws across their 34 matches in the top flight.

Leverkusen showcased their attacking prowess, scoring a staggering 89 goals in the Bundesliga. Boniface himself played a significant part in this offensive dominance.

Boniface's individual brilliance was recognized as he secured the coveted Bundesliga Rookie of the Season award. This accolade caps off a dream debut campaign for the 23-year-old striker.

While his 14 goals and 9 assists in 23 appearances are impressive statistics, Boniface's impact goes deeper. His versatility on the pitch and his ability to create opportunities for his teammates have been invaluable assets for Leverkusen.

Victor Boniface: 4 Nigerian Invincibles who have completed unbeaten league seasons
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Boniface's consistent performances have been instrumental in propelling Leverkusen to numerous victories throughout the season. His attacking prowess and creative spark were central to their historic unbeaten run and ongoing treble chase.

Victor Boniface has emerged as one of the Bundesliga's brightest young talents. His contributions this season have been a major factor in Leverkusen's success, and the future looks incredibly promising for this rising Nigerian star.

Nathan Tella: Adding depth and versatility to Leverkusen's new Invincibles

While Victor Boniface stole the headlines with his Rookie of the Year award, fellow Nigerian Nathan Tella shouldn't be overlooked. Tella has become a valuable asset for Bayer Leverkusen under manager Xabi Alonso, proving his versatility and adaptability throughout the club's historic unbeaten season.

Victor Boniface: 4 Nigerian Invincibles who have completed unbeaten league seasons
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Tella's impact extends beyond a single position. He's been deployed strategically by Alonso, demonstrating his effectiveness as an attacking midfielder, right midfielder, right winger, and even left winger. This tactical flexibility has added depth and unpredictability to Leverkusen's attacking approach.

Across 24 league appearances, Tella has directly contributed to nine goals, scoring five himself and providing four assists. These numbers showcase his ability to not only find the net but also create opportunities for his teammates.

While Boniface spearheaded Leverkusen's attack, Tella provided excellent support with his versatility and creative spark. Their combined efforts, alongside the rest of the squad, were instrumental in the team's unbeaten run and ongoing treble chase.

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Toyosi Afolayan

Toyosi Afolayan is a sports journalist who breathes life into the games we love. He loves to combine insightful analysis with historical background, creating a richer understanding of sports. Afolayan's expertise ranges from captivating narratives to live broadcasts, captivating audiences across platforms like Ojbsport, AllNigeriaSoccer, TVC Entertainment, Bounce Networks, Kwara TV, ICIR, EaglesTracker, and NFF TV. His background in History and International Studies adds depth, revealing the connections between sports, politics, and national identity.