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Yakubu
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Premier League Cult Icons: Yakubu

Plucked from obscurity by the renowned 'wheeler and dealer' Harry Redknapp in 2003, Yakubu would go on to intimidate Premier League defences for the best part of a decade.

"Feed the Yak and he will score!"

And score he did. Across four clubs in the Premier League, Yakubu scored over 100 goals in all competitions and carved his cult icon status through his ferocious physicality.

Signed by Portsmouth following a prolific spell with Maccabi Haifa, the Nigerian was an instant hit at Fratton Park, reaching double figures in consecutive Premier League seasons before Middlesbrough lured him to Teesside in a £7.5million deal.

More success followed at the Riverside, a change of scenery doing little to blunt his clinical edge in front of goal. His form warranted the attention of Everton manager David Moyes, who promptly signed Yakubu for a then-club record fee in 2007.

He was an instant hit at Goodison Park, becoming the first player to score 20 goals in a single campaign since Peter Beardsley in 1992. But at a time when Yakubu's career was going from strength to strength, an Achilles injury curtailed his Everton stint.

The Toffees opted to cash in but the Yak wasn't finished; he scored 17 goals for Blackburn Rovers, although his best efforts were unable to spare them of relegation.

It marked the end of Yakubu's time in the Premier League but it wasn't the last we saw of him in English football. Spells at Reading and Coventry City followed; the striker famed for a video in which he practically stood still during a League One match for several minutes.

Yakubu In Profile

Place of BirthBenin City, Nigeria
PositionStriker
Premier League club(s)Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton, Blackburn
Premier League appearances252
Premier League goals95
Premier League assists23
International caps57
Other notable clubsMaccabi Haifa, Reading, Coventry

Journey into football

Born in Benin City, the fourth-largest city in Nigeria, Yakubu grew up playing football in his bare feet because his parents were unable to buy him a pair of shoes.

Not that it dissuaded him from pursuing his dream of becoming a professional footballer and at the age of 12, his brother gave him a pair of boots.

From there he joined the academy of local club Gateway United, whom he was with for three years before starting his professional career with Julius Burger.

His desire to play in Europe resulted in a loan move to Gil Vicente. It proved an unfruitful switch but on his return to Nigeria, Israeli outfit Maccabi Haifa tabled an offer of $300,000 for the striker.

Spending his first professional season on loan with Hapoel Kfar Saba, it was the 2001/02 campaign in which Yakubu came to prominence. He exploded into life, scoring 13 goals in 23 matches to propel Maccabi Haifa to successive league titles but it was his exploits in the Champions League the following year that raised more eyebrows.

With Maccabi Haifa becoming the first Israeli side to reach the Champions League group stage, Yakubu scored a hat-trick against Olympiakos and a penalty in a famous 3-0 win over Manchester United to attract the attention of clubs across Europe.

With Redknapp in need of firepower to assist his promotion push, Portsmouth agreed a loan move in January 2003. Yakubu scored seven goals in 14 First Division appearances, Pompey were promoted and a £4million deal was completed at the end of the season.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Style of play

With his ferocious strength and finishing prowess, Yakubu was the ultimate centre forward.

He would intimidate central defenders, shrugging off their desperate challenges with alarming ease. But you would be naïve to think the Yak was all brawn and muscle; he was a constant nuisance for opponents with his intelligent movement and supreme perception.

That he reached double figures in six of his nine Premier League seasons was evidence of Yakubu's predatory instincts in the penalty area.

Premier League legacy

Wherever Yakubu ventured he left a lasting impression. Even opposition fans were full of admiration for a striker that is now a rare breed in the modern Premier League era.

A fan-favourite at Fratton Park, Yakubu remains Portsmouth's leading Premier League goalscorer, despite only spending two seasons with the south coast club.

Featuring in a feared attacking trio alongside Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, his presence was integral in Middlesbrough's run to the UEFA Cup final in 2006. Would the outcome have been any different had Yakubu started the contest in Eindhoven? I guess we will never know.

His fanfare spread to Merseyside following the completion of his move to Everton. The first Toffees player to score 20 or more goals in a single campaign for over 15 years, his time at Goodison Park had promised so much more.

Four goals in his first five games of the 2008/09 season suggested another 20-goal season was on the agenda until an Achilles injury cruelly robbed him of that.

It's testament to Yakubu's character that after two barren years with Everton, the Nigerian rediscovered his goalscoring spark during a loan spell with Leicester City in the Championship.

In the midst of a tumultuous time at Blackburn, his presence gave the 1994/95 Premier League champions a fighting chance of survival but he was ultimately powerless to prevent their relegation.

It was the last season we saw of Yakubu in England's top flight, with the forward opting to join Guangzhou R&F in the Chinese Super League.

With a total of 95 goals, he features alongside esteemed company fifth-highest African goalscorer in Premier League history. Ask any fan of Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn; he deserved to be in the 100 club.

Biggest career achievement

Yakubu's nomadic club career delivered numerous iconic moments, including Middlesbrough's UEFA Cup run of 2005/06 and Everton's fifth-placed finish in the Premier League in 2007/08.

His career started with two Israeli Premier League winners medals at Maccabi Haifa and he added another league title to his collection when helping Portsmouth to the First Division trophy in 2003.

Whilst there are no further honours to his name there were a number of individual accolades, including his record Premier League goal tally for Portsmouth and the forward is Nigeria's third-highest goalscorer.

Although his international career wasn't without its controversy, Yakubu represented his nation on 58 occasions, featuring in the 2000 Olympics and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Did you know?

Redknapp has always had an eye for affordable talent in the transfer market but his discovery of Yakubu may have been scuppered had the Nigerian been able to obtain a work permit when on trial with Derby County.

Yakubu, who was 19 at the time, had been training with Derby for six weeks and had even scored in each of their three behind-closed-doors matches that were arranged while he was there.

Derby agreed a fee with Maccabi Haifa for his services but Yakubu was denied a work permit having failed to meet the international appearance criteria. To add salt to the wounds, in the first month of Yakubu's loan spell at Portsmouth, the striker scored a brace in a 6-2 win over Derby.

Another cool fact, Yakubu's decision to take the number 22 shirt at Everton was based on his goalscoring target for the campaign. He fell one short, notching in 21 goals during his first season on Merseyside.

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