By now a legend in his own time, Nwankwo Kanu is both the most successful and most consistent Nigerian international of his generation. Due to turn 34 years old the month after the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, the forward is the only member of the memorable Super Eagles team at the 1998 FIFA World Cup still in contention with the national team. He also featured at the 2002 finals, was named two-time African Player of the Year, won an Olympic gold medal and earlier this year in Angola he competed in his sixth CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Although he has naturally lost a few steps with age, Kanu still has flashes of the skilful brilliance that marked his youth, and he is seen within the team and in the country as a vitally experienced talisman. And whether he plays a major role this summer for his national team, Kanu will head into the sunset of his career secure in the knowledge that he has been one of the most beloved African players of them all.
A year after winning a UEFA Champions League trophy with Ajax at just 18 years old, the lanky Kanu captained Nigeria to the gold medal at the Olympic Football Tournament at Atlanta 1996. He scored two goals in the famous 4-3 semi-final win, including the last-gasp equaliser and the extra-time winner. A heart defect and surgery seemed to have derailed his football career, but he returned to the highest level of play in 1999 and became a legend at English giants Arsenal. Always more of a playmaker than a scorer, Kanu nonetheless scored 44 times in 198 appearances with the Gunners, winning two league titles and two FA Cups in the process. He is also remembered for his stellar 17-minute hat-trick away to Chelsea in 1999. Despite an up-and-down time of it over the last half-dozen years, Kanu has remained a part of the Super Eagles, appearing six times in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and showing moments of menace in the third-place match against Algeria at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year.