Nigeria goalkeeper crisis: Who will replace Ikeme?

Enyeama applaudes the Lille fans at half time during their UEFA Champions League third qualifying match against Grasshopper Club Zurich Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Nigeria goalkeeper Carl Ikeme's recent leukemia diagnosis has exposed the gaping canyon that is the country's shot-stopping stocks.

It wasn't so long ago that the Super Eagles could trot out a trio of excellent goalkeepers in Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, and Dele Aiyenugba, but these may not be the most viable options.

While Enyeama retired after a bitter bust-up with former coach Sunday Oliseh, the latter two were gradually eased out of the side. The holes created by their exits were plastered over by the introduction of Ikeme, whose size, athleticism, organisational skills, and talent made up for the fact that there was no decent backup beyond him.

FC Ifeanyi Ubah goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa has not won the trust of national coach Gernot Rohr, while Daniel Akpeyi has lost that trust after his below-par performance in the defeat against South Africa recently.

With World Cup qualifiers against Cameroon looming on the horizon, here are the options available to Rohr and his coaching staff.


Although currently retired, such is Rohr's belief in the 34-year-old that he has held multiple conversations with the former captain in a bid to convince him to make a comeback.

It is easy to see why. Despite his international retirement, Enyeama continued to be one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, consistently keeping his place as the Lille's number one goalkeeper. Only injury and subsequent surgery kept him out of the last eight games of last season.

Although the club's new coach has frozen him out, there are no shortage of suitors and Enyeama is expected to start the new season with a new club. If Rohr can convince him to return, he would get an instant, quality solution to his goalkeeping headache.


A 14-year Super Eagles veteran, Enyeama comes with natural talent, hard work, bags of experience, great organisational skills, and an ability to spot and snuff out danger. With his foot skills, he can also play a sweeper role. He would command the respect of his defenders and instill confidence in them. Additionally, his very name puts a fear factor into opposition forwards


He might not want to return, and if he does, there are already questions being asked about what is return could do to dressing room unity and his relationship with new captain John Mikel Obi.


For a long time, Aiyenugba was Enyeama's deputy. While he's not always the most confident of goalkeepers, he has the build and athleticism, not to mention the experience, to come in and do a good job in a pinch.

Aiyenugba has been starting goalkeeper during his tenure in Israel, first with Bnei Yehuda -- where he was brought in as replacement for Enyeama -- and since last season, with Hapoel Ashkelon.

He never officially retired from the national team and as expressed his willingness to come running if called up.


Like Enyeama, Aiyenugba is an experienced goalkeeper who has not only been playing regularly at club lebel, but has done so at international level, facing some of the world's top strikers, including Lionel Messi.


He's been out of international football for a long time. His last appearance was in 2011, when Nigeria lost 1-3 to Argentina in an international friendly in Bangladesh. Coming back to the side for such a high-stakes game could lead to disaster.


FC Ifeanyi Ubah goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa has been a consistent Super Eagles squad member since 2015.

But it spoke loudly about the lack of confidence in him that the first time Ikeme withdrew from the Nigeria squad with an injury, Daniel Akpeyi was called up from South Africa, and immediately installed as starting keeper.

Ezenwa has shown ability when called upon, like in games against Senegal, Togo and Corsica. The 28-year-old has a chance to make his case over two legs of the 2017 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers in mid-August.


Despite the seeming the lack of trust in him, Ezenwa is quick off the mark and instinctively reactive. Plus, he has been in the set-up since 2015 and is thus comfortable with the team and the backline.


His biggest drawback could be that he does not quite inspire confidence in the coaches, and that somehow translates to his teammates and the fans. Seeing his name on the starting sheet might actually have the effect of giving confidence to the opposition.


A member of Nigeria's U-17 World Cup-winning team in 2013, Alampasu is expected to be a long-term goalkeeping option for the Super Eagles.

At a touch over 6 foot 6 inches, the 20-year-old has the height and reach to cover the post. But more importantly, he has natural talent, as he proved at the cadet World Cup. What is missing is experience. He is gradually gaining that in Portugal, and as part of the Nigeria squad.


He's talented, tall, confident, and has strong hands. His extended time with the senior squad should help with adding a few feathers to the confidence bow.


A lack of senior matches, especially at international level, so he might not yet have the presence to command his area and defence.