One of the most enthusiastically debated arguments is over who the greatest African footballers are of all time. It’s a fantastic way to compare players across different generations – particularly when they also operated for different clubs in Europe and played for different nations.
While African football might be lacking a FIFA World Cup trophy aside from that, the heaps of footballing talent that has come out of the Motherland is significant and didn’t making selecting our Top 5 of All Time any easier.
The FIFA World Cup hosted in South Africa in 2010 was the first ever hosted on African soil and surely is a sign of better things to come in future.
Many have different views on who actually is the best African player ever and with factors such as trophies won , leagues played in and length of their careers all playing a vital part in the selection.
Now it’s time for the SportPesa South Africa blog to make the tough calls and select the best 5 African players. If you don’t agree why not send us your top five on Twitter to @SportPesaSA! We look forward to hearing from you.
DIDIER DROGBA (Ivory Coast)
One of the most lethal strikers to grace the English Premier League, Didier Drogba springs immediately to mind.
His power, strength, agility, finishing ability, hold-up play and leadership on the pitch was unquestionable during his glory days at Chelsea FC.
Drogba scored over 100 goals during his 8-year stint with Chelsea and the who could forget his equalizer followed by the winning penalty against Bayern Munich in the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final?
He was also named African Player of the Year twice, in 2006 and 2009 as well as being Ivory Coast’s all-time top goalscorer with 65 goals from 105 appearances.
SAMUEL ETO’O (Cameroon)
The now retired Eto’o has been referred to as one of the best strikers in the world by pundits, coaches as well as his teammates during his sparkling career.
His incredible CV shows that there wasn’t much that the great man didn’t win during his glittering career.
He played for over 15 clubs overseas and won numerous titles which include 3 UEFA Champions League medals, twice with Barcelona and once with Inter Milan, becoming just the second player in history to score in two Champions League finals.
He won Olympic Gold in 2000 for Cameroon and also helped his countryseal the AFCON title on two other occasions, scoring 56 goals in 118 appearances at national level.
As if all that is not enough, Eto’o has won the African Player of the Year award a record 5 times!
SEYDOU KEITA (Mali)
Keita is the most decorated footballer from Africa at club level, winning 14 trophies during his time at Barcelona. plus the titles he won at Lorient and Sevilla.
The versatile midfielder held a constant starting position in Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team that is widely regarded as the best football team of the century.
Keita won three La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, three Supercopa de Espanas and two Champions League, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cup titles during his time in Barcelona.
He represented Mali since the age of 18, winning 102 caps and scoring 25 times in that period, as well as appearing in 7 AFCON Finals.
YAYA TOURE (Ivory Coast)
Yaya’s ability to feature in any position on the pitch, pick out a pass and score goals made him impossible to play against for whichever team that he went up against.
There are very few midfielders who could play box-to-box like Toure did it, whether it was during his Barcelona days or when he came to terrorize the EPL to play for Manchester City.
He memorably won the African Player of the Year award a record four times in consecutive years from 2011-2014.
Toure was part of the Barcelona trophy that did the unimaginable, winning six trophies in a calendar year, before moving to Manchester City and helping them win a first league title in 44 years.
The Ivory Coast international represented his country at six AFCON Finals – scoring a total of 19 goals in 101 appearances for his country.
GEORGE WEAH (Liberia)
Weah, who went on to later became the president of Liberia, is regarded as one of the players who paved the way for African footballers in Europe.
He spent 14 years playing club football in France, Italy and England. In total, he scored 194 goals in 413 appearances for his different clubs.
Weah helped PSG win the League title in 1994 before winning two Serie A crowns with AC Milan where he had his most successful spell and remains the only African player to ever win the Ballon d’Or.
At international level, Weah represented Liberia at two AFCON Finals and scored 18 goals in 75 appearances. After an international friendly in 2018, his number 14 jersey was retired.