The African continent has been responsible for producing some of the world’s most talented footballers. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest ones of all time.
A two time African Footballer of the Year, Didier Drogba was renowned for his incredible speed and power. At Chelsea, the Ivorian struck 157 goals, becoming the first African player in the Premiership with over 100 goals. And he scored some vital ones, like the equalizer and game-winner against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League. While Drogba's international side has struggled at the World Cup, his club tally of Premiership titles, 4 FA Cups, and a Champions League is more silverware than most other African players.
The four-time African Footballer of the year Yaya Toure has earned 100 caps for his national side while winning a breadth of trophies at the club level, including one Champions League, two La Liga and one Copa del Rey with Barcelona, plus three Premiership titles and an FA Cup with Man City. A complete midfielder with both tackling and offensive exploits, the Ivorian is far and way one of Africa’s best.
The four-time African Player of the Year, Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o was a scoring machine during one of his most successful club stints at Barcelona with 130 goals in 199 appearances. His superior dribbling ability combined with his strength, intelligent positioning, and pace made him a nightmare for defenders. Once a top scorer in both the Italian and English leagues, his silverware includes 3 Champions League trophies, 3 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Rey, one Italian league championship and two Italian Cup wins.
The first and only African player to win both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year prizes along with three African Footballer of the Year awards, the Liberian international George Weah is one of the most decorated African players of all time. The speedy and powerful striker helped a slew of teams in the French, Italian, and English league collect silverware, including a Ligue 1 Championship and 3 Cup titles, 2 Serie A titles, along with an FA Cup for Chelsea. He finished his career with nearly 200 strikes.
The oldest player to ever score at a World Cup at age 42, Cameroonian Roger Milla played in 3 World Cups and won two Cup of Nations where he also earned Player of the Tournament in 1986. A two-time African Footballer of the Year and club striker for a slew of teams in France and Cameroon, Milla developed a reputation not only for his longevity but also for his creative goal celebrations.
Winner of the Champions League with Marseille in 1993, Ghanaian midfielder Abedi “Pele” is one the most celebrated African footballers to play the game. Named the African Footballer of the Year three times, he won the Cup of Nations with Ghana in 1982, a runner-up a decade later, and in addition to Champions League won the French league twice. A pioneer of African football in the early 90s, Pele scored some remarkable and important goals in his career.
The two-time African Footballer of the Year and Ajax and Arsenal standout, Nwankwo Kanu appeared in three uneventful World Cups for Nigeria but won a Gold medal with his country along with some major titles at the club level. A winner of the Champions League with Ajax, he also earned two Premiership titles, a UEFA Cup, and an FA Cup. The giant striker employed an unorthodox style of play but demonstrated deep control of the football which led to a string of goals at the club and international level.
A powerful striker with a knack for goal, Hossam Hasson is Egypt’s all-time leading goal scorer with 70 goals in 169 games and the most decorated of the Pharaohs, winning three of seven African Cup of Nation tournaments. He also played in the 1990 World Cup, and enjoyed many triumphs at his club Al-Ahly where he won thirteen Egyptian league titles, five Egyptian cups, and a single African Champions League.
A four-time Africa Cup of Nations winner who’s been voted goalie of the tournament three times, the Pharaohs Essam El-Hadary is nicknamed the “High Dam” for a reason. A towering presence between the goal posts with razor-sharp reflexes, El-Hadary has won 8 Egyptian Premier League titles, four Egyptian Cups, and four Confederation of African Football titles, and much more. He became the oldest player in history to ever play in the World Cup at the age of 45.
The two-time African Footballer of the Year Sammy Kuffour played an integral role in Bayern Munich’s predominance in the Bundesliga, where his stonewall defense helped the team win six German league titles and four cups, including a Champions League title in 2001 to avenge the loss against Manchester United in 1999. While his international participation was limited to one World Cup with Ghana in 2006, he made over 60 appearances in the Champions League.
Despite nagging injuries near the tail end of his career, Michael Essien was the best box to box midfielder in Europe for years. An explosive player with strong tacking ability, who José Mourinho once referred to as his “son”, Essien helped Chelsea win Champions League in 2012, runner-up in 2008, along with two Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, and 1 League Cup. Essien also represented Ghana in two World Cups and 3 African Cup of Nations tournaments.