Past Nigerian Football Stars: Yakubu
Yakubu Aiyegbeni, known as Yakubu, is a Nigerian former professional footballer who last played as a striker for Coventry City. His nickname is “The Yak“. He was born on the 22nd day of November 1982 in Benin.
Yakubu is married to Yvonne Lameen Ikhana, the daughter of former Nigerian international footballer Kadiri Ikhana, who is also the father-in-law to former Nigerian international footballer Patrick Ovie. Yakubu and Ikhana have 2 daughters named Kayla and Katriel.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni started his career with Julius Berger FC (1997-1998) in Lagos as a teenager in the Nigerian Premier League. He was later loaned to Portuguese club Gil Vicente.
Maccabi Haifa (1998-2003)
Israeli side Maccabi Haifa paid Julius Berger $300,000 for his signature. Yakubu’s highest scoring season at Haifa was 2001–02, when he scored 13 times in 22 games (League season was 33 matches). He came to England and trained with Derby County but could not obtain a work permit at the time. He scored seven goals in eight European Cup appearances in the 2002–03 season UEFA Champions League, (including a hat-trick against Olympiakos and a penalty in the 3–0 win over Manchester United).
Yakubu moved to English club Portsmouth of the First Division (now the Championship) on loan on 6 January 2003. Signed by Harry Redknapp, Yakubu helped Portsmouth win the 2002–03 Division 1 title, scoring at a rate of one goal every two games (7 in 14 matches). He made his debut as a 57th-minute substitute for Vincent Péricard in a 1–1 away match versus Brighton & Hove Albion on 18 January. On 1 February he started for the first time and scored after 4 minutes at home to Grimsby Town. The match ended 3–0 with Yakubu substituted for Péricard after 89 minutes. Seven days later, Yakubu scored a goal in each half of a 6–2 victory over Derby County for his first brace in English football. He gained his second brace of the season with two first-half goals in a 5–0 away victory at Millwall on 1 March.
Yakubu scored his first Premier League goal in his second match, opening a 1–1 draw versus Manchester City on 23 August 2003. After eight consecutive league matches without a goal, he scored a brace in a League Cup match away to Nottingham Forest on 29 October, one of which was in extra time of the 4–2 win. Yakubu scored the final goal of a 6–1 home win over Leeds United on 8 November.
In the 2004–05 season he scored 13 goals. His final goal for Portsmouth in May 2005 before he left the club – the equaliser in a 1–1 home draw to Bolton Wanderers in the penulitimate league game of the season – was the goal that ensured Portsmouth would not be relegated from Premiership in the 2004–05 season.
After the 2004–05 season, he transferred from Portsmouth to Middlesbrough for a £7.5 million record fee, the highest for a Nigerian ever. Yakubu scored the only goal of the game with a penalty in the first leg of the UEFA Cup last 16 round at home against Roma, giving Middlesbrough a 1–0 victory, who later went through on away goals. His performances were rewarded, as he helped Middlesbrough reach the 2006 UEFA Cup Final against Sevilla, in which they lost 4–0.
Yakubu was transferred to Everton in August 2007 for a fee of £11.25 million on a five-year deal, which was at the time the most the club had ever paid for a player. Shunning the traditional centre-forwards’ number 9, Yakubu asked to be assigned number 22, setting this number as a goal-scoring target for his first season, a feat he fell one goal short of achieving. He scored 11 minutes into his debut for the club, the first goal in a 2–1 win against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium in September 2007. His first hat-trick for the club came against Fulham in a 3–0 home league win in December 2007. He finished his first season with 15 Premier League goals to his name, and 21 goals in all competitions for Everton. Yakubu achieved his highest goal tally for a single season, and also became the first Everton player since Peter Beardsley to net 20 goals in a season.
Yakubu scored his 100th goal in English football in a league game at West Bromwich Albion early in the Premier League 2008–09 season. He scored a goal against Standard Liège in the UEFA Cup and got back on the scoresheet with a goal against Middlesbrough, his first goal in 10 games. He ruptured his achilles tendon in the 1–0 away win at Tottenham Hotspur on 30 November, ruling him out for the rest of the season.
Leicester City (2011)
Yakubu joined Leicester City on loan until the end of the season on 13 January 2011, with the possibility of a permanent deal. He made his debut and scored in a 1–1 draw against Preston North End on 15 January 2011, followed by another goal in a 4–2 win over Millwall on 22 January.
On 12 February 2011 he scored a left footed volley in their 2–0 win over local rivals Derby County. On 2 April 2011, he scored his first hat-trick against his former club Middlesbrough. He then scored a double in Leicester’s 4–2 win over Watford.
Blackburn Rovers (2011-2012)
On 31 August 2011, Yakubu signed a three-year deal with Blackburn Rovers for an undisclosed fee and was assigned the number 24 shirt by manager Steve Kean. He scored his first and second goals for Blackburn Rovers on 17 September on his Premier League debut against Arsenal in which Blackburn won 4–3. He was voted Man of the Match as he helped Blackburn to their first win of the season, with Blackburn fans chanting “Feed the Yak and he will score!” by the time the final whistle blew. He scored his third goal in the league in the 3–3 away draw against Norwich City.
After relegation was confirmed, Yakubu stated that he did not want to play Championship football and wanted to leave Blackburn.
Guangzhou R&F (2012-2013)
Yakubu confirmed on 28 June 2012 that he had left Blackburn and had signed for Chinese side Guangzhou R&F, on an initial three-year deal. On 15 July, Yakubu made his Chinese Super League debut in a Guangzhou Derby match which Guangzhou R&F played against Guangzhou Evergrande at Tianhe Stadium. He scored the winning goal of the match in the 87th minute, ending Guangzhou Evergrande’s 34-league-home-match unbeaten run.
On 2 February 2015, Reading signed free agent Yakubu on a contract until the end of the 2014–15 season. On 14 February, Yakubu scored his first goal for the Royals with the winner in a 2–1 defeat of Derby Countyat Pride Park to put the club into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Yakubu was released by Reading on 21 May 2015.
On 31 August 2015, Yakubu signed a one-year contract, with the option of an additional year, with Süper Lig side Kayserispor.
Coventry City (2017)
On 13 February 2017, Yakubu signed for Coventry Cityuntil the end of the 2016–17. On 5 April 2017, having featured only three times due to suffering a hamstring injury, Yakubu’s Coventry City contract was terminated by mutual consent. He announced his retirement from football on 22 November 2017.
Yakubu has scored 21 goals in his 57 appearances for Nigeria since his 2000 debut. He is currently the third highest ever international goalscorer for Nigeria.