Sani Kaita was one of the players to reach both the final of the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup as well as the 2008 Olympic Football Tournament, and so he carries the hope of the ‘Dream Team’ label on him. A bustling, stocky presence, the 23-year-old usually slots in to Nigeria’s defensive midfield, sometimes allowing John Obi Mikel more freedom to move forward on the pitch.
Kaita first caught the world’s attention at the 2005 finals in the Netherlands, and he was signed shortly after from Kano Pillars in the domestic league by Sparta Rotterdam in the Dutch Eriedivisie. He made his debut with the full national team against Sudan in a friendly at the start of 2008 and further impressed the world’s watching scouts at the Olympic tournament in Beijing. So after just 22 appearances with Sparta, he moved to French Ligue 1 side Monaco in 2008. But he played just a handful of matches in France, and then he moved on loan to Russia, where he has turned out for three different clubs. Out of sight, he struggled to get into previous coach Shaibu Amodu’s teams, appearing just twice in the qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
He was named in the Nigeria squad that finished third at the Cup of Nations in 2006 while still a teenager, though his only appearance was as a starter in the semi-final defeat to Côte d'Ivoire. However, he played a larger and more vital role in the team that travelled to Angola for the continental finals earlier this year. He came on for the injured Kalu Uche in the second match against Benin and never relinquished his midfield spot, starting the next four matches as the side finished third.