He was a beast. A tank. A god among men. We all loved him and damn right too. So whip out the champers and get celebrating: Yakubu is back. That’s right, the Yak is back.
Rejoice, if only to start using the nickname once again. What is it with those built strikers that we all love to watch? Especially the ones who drift inconspicuously from club to club and then go off the radar for a while, only to return to an adoring crowd a few years later. Yakubu Aiyegbeni is one built striker who certainly fits that description.
EXCLUSIVE: Yakubu signs for Coventry City at 34 years old! We can reveal leaked photos of his birth certificate! pic.twitter.com/vQq8jUVjw0
— The Gaffer Tapes (@TheGafferTapes) February 13, 2017
More than just a catchy name, however, Yakubu managed to rake up over 250 Premier League appearances in his time with Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton, and Blackburn Rovers. Furthermore, he’s the second highest scoring African in the league, with 96 goals to his name along with 21 for Nigeria over an impressive 57 games for his country. He’s played in both the Champions League and UEFA Cup as well as having accolades such as being Middlesborough’s highest Premier League scorer and Nigeria’s most expensive footballer. Quite the player, then.
But what happened to that man we all knew and loved? Where did he go after leaving England? And what is it about him that’s so endearing?
Well, having left Blackburn in 2012, The Yak – ahead of his time – made a move to the Chinese Super League. Here he made 43 appearances and, no, he didn’t do it for the money. At least we hope not, because it would ruin the nice guy image a little if he did. Let’s err on the side of faithful with that one for the time being.
Lavezzi joined the Chinese Super League a year ago today.
Since then he’s scored 0 goals and earned £20.8m.. ?? pic.twitter.com/YP0OtubOnf
— CaughtOffside (@caughtoffside) February 13, 2017
Anyway, after a fairly successful stint in China, Al-Rayyan SC then somehow seemed to be a good move. For the Qatari club, Yakubu played only eight times but did manage to score three goals whilst there. Probably just a bit of a holiday for the lad. And then the green and pleasant land came calling again. Well, Reading came calling which ruins things somewhat. More of a partially green and mediocre land. Anyway, the lure of English football proved too much for Yakubu as he returned to the country in which he’d spent the majority of his career. It turned out to be a disappointing partnership. Playing just seven times and scoring only the once, the big Nigerian was released at the end of that same season where he rather unfortunately joined the Turkish club, Kayserispor. Another holiday, perhaps?
Here, Yakubu endured yet another disappointing spell – clocking up a mere 12 appearances and totalling exactly no goals whilst out there. Unlike his other two spells in Asia, this one didn’t go so well. The knell of Yakubu’s footballing career was seemingly ringing and it was then that the ever reliant green and pleasant land came to save the day again. Oh, apologies, Coventry City did. A marginally green and generally bleak land this time, then. Who knows though? With The Yak turning up, the place may well just improve. As may the struggling midlands club, who are currently facing relegation from Division One.
— Coventry City (@Coventry_City) February 13, 2017
But it’s the little stories and charismatic presence that assigned this big forward to the annals of every club he played for. Whilst at Middlesbrough, for example, the fella made the decision not to travel for the African Cup of Nations in order to ensure that his club’s form didn’t waver with his absence. During this period, Boro shocked the country as they trounced the defending champions, Chelsea, 3-0. Impact.
Furthermore, when signing for Everton in 2007, Yakubu snubbed the chance to wear the iconic number 9 shirt in preference for the more obscure number 22. Why? That was the number of goals which he’d set as a target for himself that season. Painfully, he fell one short with 21 in all competitions. But it’s the trivial thought that counts.
And who can forget the time in which that chicken was an unexpected spectator at a Blackburn Rovers vs Wigan Athletic match? Who should have come to the little fella’s aid but the main man himself, Yakubu. Blackburn fans had taken the Nigerian into their hearts long before, however, famously singing “Feed The Yak and he will score…” That’s about as imaginative as football fans get, so he must have commanded some respect.
Yakubu and Ali Al-Habsi laughing a chicken pic.twitter.com/BV8xbjBozc
— Ftbllrs with Animals (@ftbllrswanimals) November 13, 2016
The most endearing aspect of the 34-year-old’s career is sadly how it was limited from developing any further, however. Whilst at Everton – where he signed for a club record-breaking £11.25million, Yakubu fell victim to a serious achilles tendon injury. Rupturing it in a win against Tottenham Hotspur in 2008, he was then forced into recovery for the rest of the season and spent almost a year out from playing first-team football.
It was at this point that he dropped down to the Championship to play with Leicester City and then the less successful Blackburn, Reading and spells in Asia occurred. If the man had avoided that career-threatening injury, his life as a footballer would not have stopped improving. Aged just 26 and playing at the top of his game with the biggest club of his life, Yakubu was preparing to continue his spectacular Premier League stints no doubt at larger clubs. If he had, perhaps we’d remember him in a better light from a technical perspective.
Anyway, regardless of how his career was coldly cut short, Yakubu somehow continued to play at a decent level and his is a name that few of us will forget anytime soon. It’s not a hard one, in fairness. But, thankfully, with his move to Coventry having taken place, we won’t be fearing that anytime soon.
The tank, the player, the Yak; it’s good to have him back.
Yakubu always guaranteed a goal, even if it meant coming off from the bench. But does the big man make it into the list of the Premier League’s best off-the-bench goalscorers.