African football has left a lasting impression on the world stage by producing a wide range of extraordinary talents. These players have demonstrated their abilities and made major contributions to the beautiful game with everything from electrifying dribbles to breathtaking goals. This article honours the accomplishments, influence, and legacy of the top ten greatest African football players of all time.
1. SAMUEL ETO’O (CAMEROON)
It seems the “little Milla” has turned out to be big after all. This incredible forward from Cameroon had a significant impact in African football especially in Africa Cup of Nations. He is the competitions highest goal scorer with an astounding 18 goals. Eto’o accomplished things that are still unmatched.
The Cameroonian was named the African Player of the Year four times. He was an Olympic gold medallist in 2000 and won two AFCON titles with his country. Eto’o won the treble in the 2008–2009 season with Barcelona. He won two UEFA Champions League titles with Barcelona and scored in both finals as the Spanish giant went ahead to win the club World Cup. Eto’o was an integral part of Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan team that won the UCL in 2010. In 2005, he placed third in the FIFA World’s Best Player Award and was named in the UEFA and FIFA Teams of the Year twice. He played for many elite clubs and has a long list of individual accolades. Eto’o is Africa’s most decorated football player.
2. GEORGE WEAH (LIBERIA)
George Weah with his balon d’Or
Weah became the first African football player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award and the Ballon d’Or award in 1995. He also won three African Player of the Year award. His most successful period was spent in Italy with where he won two Serie A titles with AC Milan, but in 1994 he helped PSG win the League title. Weah finished his professional career with over 200 goals scored. A great national hero, he is currently serving as president of Liberia. What a dude!!
3. MOHAMED SALAH (EGYPT)
One of the greatest Africans to have ever played this lovely game. The winger has continuously proven himself after being let go by Chelsea on a number of loan stints and subsequently moving permanently to AS Roma. He has won both the Premier League and the Champions League since his arrival. Along with scoring 32 goals in 2017–18 and 22 goals in 2018–19, he also won the Golden Boot twice. Additionally, Salah has received three Professional Footballers Association (PFA) award.
4. ROGER MILLA (CAMEROON)
The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) named the Cameroon international the second-greatest African player of the past century. He made a major impact on Cameroon’s historical trajectory. They became the first African team to compete in the World Cup quarterfinals in 1990 thanks to his assistance.
Milla became the oldest goal scorer at the World Cup when he scored against Russia at the age of 42 and 39 days. Additionally, he was awarded African Footballer of the Year twice. He helped Cameroon to win two AFCON championships in 1984 and 1988.
Pelé included him in the FIFA 100 list of the best active players in the world in 2004. Milla was named the greatest African player of the preceding fifty years by the Confederation of African Football in 2007.
5. DIDIER DROGBA (IVORY COAST)
A beast of a forward for many years due to his aerial skills and powerful shots. Unquestionably a Chelsea legend and one of the best strikers in Premier League history. Drogba won two African Player of the Year awards in 2006 and 2009 with an incredible eight top three finishes. During his professional career, He scored more than 300 goals, won four Premier League titles, an FA Cup, three English League Cups, two Community Shields, and one UEFA Champions League title. He was been named in the Premier League team of the year twice and won the Golden Boot in 2007 and 2010 when he was tied with Wayne Rooney on the final day.
6. NWANKWO KANU (NIGERIA)
“Papilo” (as he widely called by fans) represented the super Eagles in Three World Cups. Despite his unfortunate inability to win the African Cup of Nations, Kanu still holds an Olympic gold medal. He won the Champions League once and the Eredivisie title three times, a UEFA Cup medal with Ajax. The striker also played for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal team of 2003–04 that won the English Premier league without tasting a defeat which is referred to as “The Invincibles.” In addition, Papilo has three FA Cup medals to his name and won two African Player of the Year awards amongst others.
At the end of his career, he had to endure relegation with Portsmouth despite all of his accomplishments.
7. ABEDI AYEW “PELE” (GHANA)
Abedi Ayew was an attacking midfielder. He won the AFCON title with Ghana in 1982. Ten years later, he was also announced as the Player of the Tournament after Ghana lost on penalties to Ivory Coast. While in France with Olympique de Marseille, Ayew won three French league 1 titles in a row and also the UEFA Champions League with them in 1993. He was declared the Man of the Match in that final. The Ghana legend also won the African Footballer of the Year award three times.
7. YAYA TOURÉ (IVORY COAST)
Yaya Touré is a highly respected legend of the round leather sport. He won the African Player of the Year award four times thanks to his remarkable skill and athleticism.
His performance both on and off the pitch continues to astound fans and teammates, who hold him in the highest regard. Yaya Touré is a great example of the extraordinary talent that can originate from Africa and an inspiration to many.
Touré represented the Ivory Coast in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup competitions, earning 100 caps between 2004 and 2015. He also played for The elephants in six Africa Cup of Nations tournaments: in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015. During his illustrious career. Toure played in seven different countries. He won two La Liga titles at Barcelona and went on to win three more Premier League championships at Manchester City, three League Cups, an FA Cup and Community Shield in his time at the Club.
8. JAY-JAY OKOCHA (NIGERIA)
Jay-Jay was a delight to watch. An entertainer with the ball at his feet . His ability to dribble allowed him to be a regular member of every side he played for. In addition to winning multiple individual honours, including two BBC African Player of the Year titles, he led the super Eagles of Nigeria to victory in the African Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympics.
9. SADIO MANE (SENEGAL)
Even though things may have gotten worse since Mane left the Premier League, when he was in his prime with Liverpool , he effortlessly went through Premier League defences. Mane is a textbook definition of a wide forward. He is incredibly quick, technically proficient, and a fantastic finisher who can score from any angle and distance.
Few people can accomplish what Sadio Mane has accomplished in his career, having grown up in the isolated village of Bambali in Senegal. Mane was signed by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool in 2016 from Southampton and the rest as they say, is history.
He won the Champions League with the Merseyside club in 2019, shared the Premier League Golden Boot that year with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah and helped to end Liverpool’s 30-years wait for the Premier League title. Mane was also part of the Senegal squad that won the AFCON title in 2022.
10. SEYDOU KEITA (MALI)
Without a doubt, Keita deserves a place in this list. Very few African players has ever achieved as much at the club level as he has. Keita continuously maintained his position on Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona squad that is widely regarded as the greatest football team ever. During his time at Barcelona, Keita won two UEFA Super Cups, two Club World Cups, three La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, three Supercopa de Espanas, and two Champions League.