So good that they named him twice. It can only be one player: Jay-Jay Okocha.
There are certain footballers who hold a special place in the heart of every football fan, revered as if they belong to all of us, rather than to a select few clubs.
Why? Because they are fun. They remind us why we love football.
No one goes into the game to win at any cost, most children just want their mate nutmeg.
He passes someone twice, even if once was enough.
It’s a rainbow that sends the ball over the opponent’s head, when there were easier ways around.
It’s giving the crowd what they’ve come to see, for no other reason than you can – and you want it.
Okocha, the Bolton legend, was not a winner. His CV clearly shows it. But he was something better: an artist and a genius.
Don’t take it from us. Paris Saint-Germain boss Maurcio Pochettino, who played alongside the trickster in France, previously ranked Okocha among his five football geniuses.
While adding Mousa Dembele to the roster, the former Spurs boss said: “One was Diego Maradona, then Ronaldinho, Okocha and Ivan de la Pena.”
Can we just shock you? Brazil legend Pochettino, Okocha and Ronaldinho were all on the same PSG squad in the 90s.
It will be less surprising, however, that Okocha served as a mentor to one of the most talented football players of all time in Ronaldinho.
“Ronaldinho tried to emulate some of my skills and my dribbling, he was still a young player before I left for England, and he joined Barcelona,” Okocha said.
Blessed with an equally rare talent, Okocha and Ronaldinho also grew up under interrelated circumstances.
Both were born into poverty and spent their childhood playing football on the streets of their home countries.
Okocha once said, “As far as I can remember we would play with anything, any round object we could find, and every time we managed to get our hands on a ball it was a bonus ! I mean it was amazing!
After gaining attention in Nigeria, a vacation to West Germany, which had just won the World Cup in 1990, launched his career.
Third division club Borussia Neunkirchen gave Okocha a contract after he was randomly asked to participate in a training session, and less than a year later the forward was playing alongside Tony Yeboah and later from Thomas Doll in the Bundesliga.
The highlight of his time in Germany came against Karlsruher SC, when Okocha seated a bunch of players twice, including iconic goalkeeper Oliver Kahn on the verge of scoring the goal in the 1993 season.
By joining Fenerbahce, the Nigerian will spend the years 1996 to 1998 hitting free kicks under the name of Muhammed Yavuz.
PSG were so impressed with their 34 goals in 62 appearances that they made Okocha the most expensive African football in history, paying £ 14million for his signing.
But despite four years in Paris, the heyday of his career would come in a small town called Horwich, when Okocha signed for Bolton on a free transfer in 2002.
Within weeks, Trotters fans chanted his name, as the Super Eagles captain electrified Premier League games at the Reebok Arena, overtaking players to have fun with skills English football had never seen before. .
He delivered an iconic display against champions Arsenal in 2003, producing not one, but two moments of magic – both at the expense of talkSPORT’s Ray Parlor.
Facing a seemingly still wall from Parlor and Robert Pires, Okocha simply scooped the ball through the stunned pair, and that wasn’t even his most valuable skill of the game.
With a level of play at 2-2 and deep in stoppage time, a short corner was played in Okocha, apparently with the intention of blocking the ball until the final whistle.
But that’s just not Okocha’s style. It’s not football he knows. And besides, he has a better way to run down the clock.
In one of the Premier League’s most replayed moments, Okocha produced a perfect rainbow flick over Parlor’s head, kept the ball from Giovanni van Bronckhorst and still had time to send Pires to get a hot dog before unloading.
One of Pochettino’s current geniuses at PSG, Neymar, comes to mind when you think of rainbow movies.
As it turns out, Ronaldinho wasn’t the only famous Brazilian to copy Okocha.
The Nigerian guided Bolton safely to safety in 2003, thanks in part to a wonderful goal against West Ham who will go down as one of the best and most important in club history.
Carrying his own half’s ball, using the famous “Okocha trick,” repelling a challenge and then throwing a long-distance effort into the roof of the net – that captured everything he stood for.
The players who bear their names do not belong to the relegations to Bolton, but we are extremely happy that Okocha is here.
Play talkSPORT’S Big5 to win big
- PLAY HERE and you could…
- Win a share of £ 5,000
- 5 quick picks and decide from 3 game changers
- Entrances cost £ 5
- 18+ please play responsibly, gambleaware.org