If Nigeria have had a problem finding a replacement for long-retired Jay Jay Okacha in the playmaking attacking midfield role, Kalu Uche has sometimes been considered the solution. Unfortunately for the Super Eagles, the Spain-based player might be more comfortable in the forward position, where he can utilise his speed in getting behind defences. Whether the 27-year-old can consistently create dangerous situations from further back on the pitch, there is no doubt that Uche is one of the most stylish and skilful Nigerians with the ball at his feet.
Having become a regular in Spain’s top flight with Almeria since 2005, he has sometimes struggled to get noticed for Nigeria. His full national team debut came in a qualifier for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in the middle of 2003, though he only played in one FIFA World Cup™ qualifier on the road to Germany 2006, and he missed out on the 2006 and 2008 Cup of Nations. In 2009, he was one of the standout performers in international friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and France, the latter of which ended in a shock 1-0 victory for the Super Eagles. He was also a regular for previous coach Shaibu Amodu in the qualifiers for South Africa 2010, appearing nine times, though predominantly in the second stage of preliminaries.
He finally reached a continental finals, playing three times at the Cup of Nations in Angola earlier this year, but really without making an impact. After a disappointing performance in front of goal in the 3-1 defeat to eventual champions Egypt to start the tournament, he picked up a knock in the second match and only came back for the third-place victory over Algeria. He is the older brother of Ikechukwu Uche, who also plays in Spain for Real Zaragoza.