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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Top Ten African Footballers of All Time

Africa has become a breeding ground for football in the recent time as the continent produced many world class players over the last one decade. At this moment, a number of African players are dominating European football and I think, their presence has made the European football more competitive. Here, I have made a list of top ten African footballers of all time, but before letting you go through the list, I would like to say few words.

First of all, I considered only those players for the list who represented any of the African countries. That is why, I did not include the football greats like Eusebio and Zinedine Zidane who were born in Africa. Secondly, I have made the list using my own opinion and you do not necessarily have to agree with me on the selection of the players. You may have your own opinion and can share it with us in the comment section. Another thing is that it was not easy to choose the 10 players because there are many players who also deserve a place in the list by their own rights. I regret that I had to exclude the players like El Khatib, Tony Yeboah, Kalusha Bwalya, Rashidi Yekini, El Hadji Diouf, Mohamed Aboutrika and Amr Zaki. Anyway, let us now go through the list:

Roger Milla

Roger Milla is arguably the best ever football player who represented an African country at international stage. The Cameroonian striker’s rise in international football was a bit unconventional. While a lot of other football greats came into limelight at young age by playing club football, Milla became an international star at the age of 38 when by his impressive performance at 1990 World Cup.

The prolific striker scored four goals during 1990 world cup, and thus, leading Cameroon to the quarter final, the best ever world cup performance by Cameroon. At club level, Milla got success with French clubs Bastia, Saint-Étienne and Montpellier. A two-time African Player of the Year Award winner (1976 and 1990), Milla was named the best African player of the 20th century by CAF (Confederation of African Football) in 2006. He is also placed in the FIFA recognized list of 125 greatest living footballers, according to Brazilian legend Pele.

George Weah

George Weah came from Liberia, an African country that did never qualify for FIFA world cup. However, that was not a problem for the outstanding forward who made his way to become one of the world’s greatest players of his time. In fact, there are many who believe Weah is the greatest African player ever. With his skill and technique, Weah won many prestigious titles including three African Player of the Year awards (1989, 1994, 1995), FIFA World Player of the Year award (1995) and European Player of the Year award (1995).

That means the Liberian star won almost all the major individual football awards in 1995. He is so far the only African player who has won FIFA world player of year and European player of the year awards. Sports journalists from across the world voted him the best African player of the 20th century. During his illustrious career, Weah represented a number of European clubs including AS Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, A.C. Milan, Chelsea, Manchester City and Olympique Marseille. George Weah is also named in Pele’s list of 125 greatest living footballers.

Abedi Pele

The Ghanaian was one of the very first African stars who made his presence felt in European football. Specifically, he was instrumental behind Olympique Marseille’s rise to European football in early 1990s, leading them to win their first and only Champions League title in 1993 and he was named man of the match in Marseille’s 1-0 win over AC Milan in the tournament final. Pele won the African Player of the Year award on three consecutive years: 1991, 1992 and 1993 and has been placed among the 125 greatest living legends by Brazilian legend Pele.

To many, the Ghanaian is the greatest ever player who represented an African country in international football. Winner of Ghana Football of the Year award on several occasions, Abedi Pele is undoubtedly the greatest player Ghana has ever produced and represented his country in five African Cup of Nations tournaments and was part of Ghana’s winning campaign in the 1982 tournament. He won the player of the tournament award in 1992 African Cup of Nations. Abedi Pele’s greatness is also evident in his selection in FIFA All Star team on five occasions. Scoring 33 goals in 73 appearances for Ghana, Pele is now his country’s record scorer and most capped player. Overall, Abedi Pele is one of the most decorated African footballers of all time.

Samuel Eto’o

The Cameroonian striker has already become a football legend and by the time, he would retire from football, Samuel Eto’o could possibly become the greatest ever African football player. The Current Inter Milan star rose to stardom while playing for Spanish club Barcelona with whom he won two Champions League and three La Liga titles. Along with Rivaldo, Eto’o is the joint third highest scorer of Barcelona with 130 goals from 200 appearances.

Samuel Eto’o is similarly successful with his country as well. He represented Cameroon in 86 matches and scored 41 goals so far. He guided Cameroon to win two African Cup of Nations titles in 2000 and 2002, becoming the all time highest scorer of the tournament with 16 goals, and he was scorer of 2006 and 2008 tournaments. He is the second player after Abedi Pele to win the African Player of the Year award on three successive years (2003, 2004, 2005). He made it to the FIFA World XI twice and UEFA Team of the Year on two occasions. Eto’o is now 28 and he has already achieved so many titles and award. Even if he can play at least 5 more years, it would be interesting to see where he stops.

Michael Essien

Michael Essien is perhaps the most versatile player of this list with his ability to play in several roles in the midfield. He can play both as a defensive as well as an attracting midfielder, and thus, becoming a key player in the midfield for any side as he is capable of creating deadly chances as well as nullifying opposition attacks. Chelsea’s Ghanaian star has already become one of the best midfielders of present day thanks to his endless energy, excellent tackling skill and tremendous physicality in the midfield. Michael Essien could not yet win any African Player of the Year award yet, but he came in the top 3 consistently over the last four years and won the BBC African Footballer of the Year award in 2006.

There is no doubt, Michael Essien has been instrumental in Chelsea’s revival in English as well as in European football. Before moving to the English outfit, the Ghana international spent two successful stints with SC Bastia and Olympique Lyon. With Lyon, Essien won French League once and with Chelsea, the midfielder won Premier League in 2006, FA Cup in 2007 and 2009 and League Cup in 2007. So, I think, he deserves a place in this list and he is now 26- meaning a number of active years are ahead of him. If he can continue his current level, Essien could one day become the greatest ever African player.

Thomas Nkono

The two-time African Player of the Year winner, Thomas Nkono, is the only goalkeeper in this list. The former Cameroon international is definitely the best ever goalkeeper from African continent. He is currently the goalkeeping coach of Cameroon national team. He is best known for his performance at Spanish club Espanyol. Thomas Nkono was part of Cameroon’s three world cup squads (1982, 1990, 1994).

He may not have a very high profile, but I did not hesitate to include him in the list mainly because of his excellent skill and performance, without considering the number of titles and awards he earned during his career.

Didier Drogba

The Ivory Coast international is another African who was responsible for Chelsea’s revival as a powerhouse of European club football. Drogba, who won the African Player of the Year award in 2006, is similarly successful for his national team. A prolific goal scorer, Drogba is the all time highest goal scorer of Ivory Coast national football team with 41 goals in 60 appearances.

With Chelsea, Drogba won all the major titles of English football including 2 Premier league, 2 FA Cup, 2 League Cup and 2 Community Shield titles. In 2007, he was the top scorer of Premier League and in the same year, he made it to the FIFA World XI, UEFA Team of the Year, and PFA Team of the Year. While playing for Olympique Marseille, Drogba became the best player of French League in 2004. He is 31, but given his excellent physical strength, I think, he can still continue his career for 4 or 5 more years and there is every possibility he would be able to make his career more glorious.

Rabah Madjer

The Algerian legend has become a cult hero at Portuguese club FC Porto whom he led to win UEFA Champions League in 1987. The same year, Madjer won UEFA Suprcup as well as Intercontiental Cup with Porto with whom he also won three Portuguese league titles during his two stints with the Portuguese outfits. The striker also played for Spanish club Valencia and French club RCF Paris.

Rabah Madjer will always be remembered for his magnificent goal in Porto’s 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the final match of Champions League 1986-87, the first Champions League triumph for Porto. Winner of African Player of the Year 1987, Madjer was more successful with national team, representing Algeria for 14 years during which he represented Algeria in two world cup tournaments (1982 and 1986). Though he is currently the second highest scorer for Algeria, he was the top scorer at the time of his retirement. He led Algeria to win the 1990 African Cup of Nations, the only success of Algeria so far in the history of the tournament.

Nwankwo Kanu

The Nigerian striker is definitely one of the greatest footballers of Africa. Kanu, who is currently playing for English club Portsmouth, represented the European clubs like Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal. Kanu won the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup with Ajax and a prestigious Champions League title with Inter Milan, two English Premier League titles with Arsenal and three FA Cup titles of which two at Arsenal and one at Portsmouth.

Kanu has 79 appearances for Nigeria national team with whom he won Olympic gold medal in 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. He represented his country in African Cup of Nations on five occasions, but could not win the title yet and he participated in world cup football twice in 1998 and 2002. In 1996 and 1999, Kanu was named African Footballer of the Year award.

Jay-Jay Okocha

In terms of awards and achievement, you might think that Jay-Jay Okocha does not deserve to be in the top ten list of all time greatest African footballers. To be honest, I did not include him on the basis of what he achieved; rather I included him considering his magnificent skill and ability to nullify any defense at any time. The Nigerian great is that kind of a player who can change everything with a moment of magic. The playmaker represented a number of European clubs including Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahçe, Paris Saint-Germain and Bolton Wanderers with sheer success.

Watching him playing on the field was an enjoyment for the football fans. His outstanding dribbling skill, tactics, speed, deadly passes were enough to win matches. With Nigeria, Okocha won the African Cup of Nations in 1994 and Olympic gold medal in 1996 and helped Nigeria to reach the second round of FIFA World Cup in 1994 and 1998, both being the best world cup performance of Nigeria. Okocha suffered a lot due to injury during his illustrious career, and I think, he could have been Africa’s greatest ever player, had injury not troubled him that much. It is true that he could never win African football of the year award, but came closer to win the prestigious title twice when finished second in 1998 and 2004. However, he is the two-time winner of BBC Footballer of the Year awards and Pele named him in his list of 125 greatest footballers.


  1. Anonymous2:43 AM

    but why had CAF also published Rashidi Yekini being the player of the year in 1993

  2. thanks to cameroon Africa is known the world over.

  3. tonga bull5:32 AM

    where is our zambian golden boy great kalu rated...it would be wrong to discard him and rate him below samuel,didier and even kanu...be fair

  4. jay-jay 4 me is da man. okocha's dribblin is absolutely horrifying and can embarass any world class player

  5. Anonymous11:06 PM

    Eusebio should be on here.


  6. Anonymous8:40 AM


  7. Anonymous8:47 AM

    What about Obi Mikel and Yakubu dumbass,they should defintely be there your right dumb shit your opinoins r stupid your probaly just a geek how lives in his mothers basement and is a strong as a stick. If your so smart track this so you can come here and i can kick you flat ass. Our atleast comment to this.

  8. Anonymous5:01 AM

    Obi Mikel and Yakubu on the list? they'd not even make the first 50. Players like Aboutarika, El Khatib, Tony Yeboah, Kalusha Bwalya, Rashidi Yekini, El Hadji Diouf and many others are well ahead of those to. Be real, u self-absored Nigerian

  9. After reading the article and comments,I deduced that most of the arguments foocused on talents, but not how the players used/using their telants to success.
    Having said that, Samuel Eto'o is only successful African player to prove his talents on the field of play and continue to on the field of play.
    For those who will oppose to this, are welcome to compare and contrast these players under discussion statistics.
    Of Samuel Eto'o statistics, I would like to mention few:
    The only African Players to win the European Champion League three times.
    The only African player to score twice in the final of the European Champion League.
    The highest scorer in the history of the African Cup of Nations.
    European Best Stricker 2005.
    The highest goal scorer of all times of Cameroon.
    The third highest scorer of all times for Barcelona.
    At this point, I submit.

  10. Anonymous11:35 AM

    bla bla bla.

  11. Anonymous8:05 AM

    kalu should be on this list compared to some of the people on he proved he could play as a solo player and make a huge difference to the game watch the videos idiots.....