Utaka with Sivasspor in 2013
|Full name||John Chukwudi Utaka|
|Date of birth||8 January 1982|
|Place of birth||Enugu, Nigeria|
|Height||1.79 m (5 ft 10 1⁄2 in)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 4 May 2013.
† Appearances (Goals).
John Chukwudi Utaka (born 8 January 1982 in Enugu) is a Nigerian footballer who currently plays as a striker for Turkish side Sivasspor of the Süper Lig. He is the older brother of Peter Utaka, who plays for Beijing Guoan in China. Utaka has played at two World Cups and three Africa Cup of Nations for Nigeria since his debut in 2002.
Utaka has played for several clubs across three continents, first for Arab Contractors and subsequently Ismaily of Egypt, then spending a season playing for Al-Sadd of Qatar, before joining Racing Lens and later Rennes in France. During his career he has mainly been utilised as a pacy winger making a very effective element in a team's counter-attacking.
Utaka struggled to make an impact at the start of his Rennes stint. However, he took advantage of the absence of fellow striker Alexander Frei through injury to make his breakthrough. In February 2006, he scored two consecutive hat-tricks, against Lens and Lyon, and as a result received L'Equipe's player of the month award.
In Egypt, while with Ismaily, Utaka earned cult status with the local fans. They used to chant "Oh Oh Oh Utaka, Oh Oh Oh Utaka" during the matches. He played alongside the likes of Mohammed Barakat, Islam El-Shater, and captain Mohamed Salah Abo Greisha under the guidance of Mohsen Saleh, later appointed coach of Egypt.
Utaka joined Portsmouth on a four-year deal in July 2007, for a fee of around £7 million. He scored his first goal on 11 August 2007 in a game against newly promoted Derby County. Some sources claim he became the club's record signing.
He went on to have a poor 2008–09 season but on 27 June 2009 he confirmed he would be staying at the club for at least another season.
The salary being paid to Utaka become a talking point in light of Portsmouth's financial issues, with news agencies reporting an alleged £80,000 per week salary for Utaka as a reflection of their financial mismanagement. Utaka has since hit out at these reports, claiming that he earns one third of that figure.
On 29 January 2011, Utaka signed for French first division side Montpellier, agreeing a two-and-a-half year deal for an undisclosed fee. Utaka made his debut for the new club on 26 February coming on as a 70th minute substitute for Olivier Giroud in a 0–0 draw with Sochaux.
Utaka scored his first goal of the new Ligue 1 season, and his first for the club, against Ajaccio on 21 September 2011, and also provided an assist as Montpellier defeated Ajaccio 3–1 in Corsica. On 19 February 2012, Montpellier travelled to the Parc des Princes to face league leaders PSG; Utaka headed in an 81st minute goal from a Giroud cross but a late tap in from Guillaume Hoarau levelled the game at 2–2 and earned the sides a share of the points. Montpellier played host to Bordeaux six days later and Utaka headed home the only goal of the game in the 80th minute to keep up the pressure on league leaders PSG. On 20 May 2012 in a game marred by stoppages for crowd violence, Utaka scored a brace, his sixth and seventh league goals of the campaign, to secure a 2–1 victory over Auxerre and win the Ligue 1 title for Montpellier over PSG, for the first time in the club's history.
Utaka plays for Nigeria and was a participant at the 2002 World Cup. He started four of Nigeria's six games in the 2006 African Cup of Nations, in which Nigeria finished in third place. He was also part of the Nigeria squad that participated in the 2010 World Cup but was an unused substitute in the tournament.
- Ismaily SC
- Egyptian League: Top scorer 2000–01
- "John Utaka To Stay At Premier League Outfit Portsmouth, Explains Brother". goal.com. 5 June 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
- "Portsmouth bring in striker Utaka". BBC Sport. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
- Burt, Jason (12 July 2007). "Portsmouth splash out again to seal Utaka deal". The Independent (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010.
- "'A dream come true'". The FA. 17 May 2008. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
- "Portsmouth striker John Utaka hits out at wages reports". BBC Sport. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- "Portsmouth 2–1 Sunderland". BBC News. 23 January 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
- "Striker John Utaka leaves Portsmouth for Montpellier". BBC News. 29 January 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
- "Nigerian striker John Utaka joins Sivasspor". Oluwashina Okeleji (BBC News). 1 August 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
- "Uche misses out for Super Eagles". BBC News. 31 May 2010.
- Official website
- John Utaka career stats at Soccerbase
- John Utaka French league stats at LFP.fr (French)
- John Utaka's profile, stats and pics – Stade Rennais (French)
- Player profile and pictures – Racing Club de Lens (French)