A big, direct striker with a knack for finishing, Yakubu Aiyegbeni could offer a powerful and potentially decisive option up front for Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback. Although the popular Everton player has struggled with injuries over the last few years, the man aptly known as ‘The Yak’ is one of the most experienced players currently in the Nigerian squad. Despite still being just 27 years old, Yakubu made his national team debut in April of 2000 and only narrowly missed out on a trip to the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™. He is one of the last players left in the team that also played at the 2002 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, where he scored the winner in the third-place match.
After a bit part in the 2004 Cup of Nations, Yakubu missed the 2006 continental finals after a falling out with coach Austin Eguavoen. He did play a part in Nigeria’s unsuccessful qualifying campaign for Germany 2006 as well, scoring twice in six contests. At the 2008 Cup of Nations, he started all four matches and scored twice as the Super Eagles went out to the hosts Ghana in the quarter-finals. An Achilles injury at the end of 2008 meant he missed the rest of the season, and he was only just getting back to fitness at Angola 2010. Nonetheless he started four matches and scored a penalty kick goal.
Yakuba first turned up in Europe with Israel’s Maccabi Haifa in 1999, but after impressing on loan at Portsmouth in 2002 as the side won promotion to the Premier League, he was brought full-time to the club by Harry Redknapp. The goals kept coming at Pompey and then Middlesbrough, where he helped the team to the UEFA Cup final, before he became Everton’s most expensive signing at the beginning of the 2007 season. He scored 11 minutes into his debut for the Toffees and ended up with a career best 21 goals in his first season. No Everton player had scored more than 20 goals in 15 years.