Throughout the years, the football world has seen some exceptional players who came from all corners of the world. From bigger cities to small villages no one heard of, every year there are football stars being born, that will one day entertain us under the spotlights. From South America, which is known to produce some of the best football players in the world, to Europe where numerous football legends were born, today we will be checking out a list of the top 10 players that came from an often overlooked continent, when it comes to football stars, Africa.
The Best 10 Football Players from Africa
10. Yaya Toure (Côte d’Ivoire)
Arguably one of the best midfielders that ever lived, Yaya Toure simply deserves to be on our list of top 10 African players. Starting off his football career in Cote d’Ivoire, it took Yaya Toure a few years to prove himself, however, when he did, the whole world was watching. Climbing the ranks, Yaya Toure switched 5 clubs, until he found himself in Monaco, where his career took off. During his time in France, it took Yaya Toure only one year to get spotted by Barcelona who did not hesitate to sign him on a 3-year long deal. During his 3-year long spell at Barcelona Yaya Toure was arguably a very good player, however, his game reached another level in 2010 when he joined Manchester City, where he remained for 8 years. Establishing himself as one of the best midfielders in the world and a key player of Cote d’Ivoire’s Golden Generation, the two time African Footballer of the Year, three-time EPL champion and UCL winner deserves his spot in the hall of fame.
9. Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria)
A Nigerian player, whose career was not filled with club achievements, but rather filled with achievements of his nation. As a player who started off his career in 1990, Jay-Jay Okocha played for 8 teams, however, failed to win a title with any of them. His biggest achievement on a club level was a French super cup with PSG in 1998/99. However, while Jay-Jay Okocha failed to achieve much with the clubs he played with, he was widely considered to be one of the best African footballers of his time, so much so, that he won two African Footballer of the Year awards. To add to his achievements, Jay-Jay Okocha won a gold medal with Nigeria at the 1995/96 Olympic Games in addition to winning the African Cup in 2004.
8. Samuel Kuffour (Ghana)
Widely considered to be one of the best players in the world at his peak, Samuel Kuffour finished runner-up in the African Footballer of the Year award twice and won the BBC African Player of the Year in 2002, however his achievements did not stop there. During his 12 years with Bayern Munich, Samuel Kuffour won 3 Footballer of the Year awards, 6 domestic league titles, 4 German Cups, 1 intercontinental cup, 6 German league cups and to top it off 1 Champions League title.
7. Abedi Pele (Ghana)
As of now, approaching the age of 55, Abedi Pele was a global football star of the 90s. The three-time African Footballer of the Year and 1 time BBC African Player of the Year, Abedi Pele has made his legacy with the French side Marseille, when he won the first and only Champions League title in 1992/93. To add to his achievements, Abedi Pele also helped Marseille reach the status of French champions 3 times and won the Africa Cup with Ghana in 1982. Named in the top 3 Africans of all time by IFFHS, we simply could skip Abedi Pele.
6. Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria)
A name, which should be well known for any football fan that got a chance to see him play in the early 2000s. It was something about Nwankwo Kanu that made him stand out from the rest. It may have something to do with his unique style of play which made him very unpredictable, yet a very remarkable player. The two times African Footballer of the Year and two time BBC Footballer of the Year, Nwankwo Kanu’s biggest football achievement was the Olympic gold medal he won with Nigeria in 1995/96, however that was not his only achievement. During his career, Nwankwo Kanu played for Arsenal, Ajax and Inter to name a few, and won a piece of silverware with each of them. With Arsenal Nwankwo Kanu won 2 EPL titles, 1 Super Cup and 2 FA Cups, with Inter he won UEFA Cup and with Ajax, Nwankwo Kanu did not only win 3 domestic league titles and UEFA Super Cup, he also managed to stand on the top of Europe in 1995, when he won the Champions League.
Nwankwo Kanu was and still is one of the few players that won Champions League, UEFA Cup, Olympic gold, FA Cup and the Premier League.
5. Roger Milla (Cameroon)
Identified by IFFHS as the 2nd greatest African player of the last 100 years, and quite frankly it’s not far from the truth. As one of the few players who really left a mark in the World Cup, Roger Milla has numbers to back up the claim he is among the best African footballers that ever lived. While many know him for his impressive numbers, Roger Milla is also known to have one of the longest football careers, as he remains the oldest player to score at the World Cup (42 years). Twice African Footballer of the Year, thrice among the top 3 African Footballers of the Year and two times French champion with Monaco and Sporting Étoile Club Bastia, Roger Milla and his performances for Cameroon at the Cup of Nations made him widely recognised as the most dominant player of the continent’s football in the 80s.
4. Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
One of the best strikers of the 21st century, Mohamed Salah has made a name for himself ever since he arrived at Liverpool in 2017 from Roma. Helping his team reach the Champions League finals two times, Salah not surprisingly won African Footballer of the Year award twice (2017 and 2018), which is only a cherry on the top of his long list of achievements, which include 2x top scorer of EPL, 2x player of the year (2017/18 and 2012/13), 2x Swiss champion and to top it all off a Salah won the Champions League in 2018/19. While he has some impressive personal and club achievements, Salah sadly never won anything with his nation, Egypt. Nonetheless, with a long career ahead of him, we can be sure Salah will expand his list of achievements with a few more titles and silverware.
3. Didier Drogba (Côte d’Ivoire)
The legend himself, Didier Drogba is arguably one of the most iconic football players of the 21st century. What makes him one of the best players in the world is not only his longevity, but his capability to play on the top level for well over 20 years. When we try to answer where Didier Drogba reached his peak of performance, it’s rather hard to pinpoint it simply due to the fact he was so good for so long. We could just as well say Didier Drogba’s whole career was the peak of his career. The all-time top scorer for Côte d’Ivoire (49 goals) sadly never managed to win a trophy for his nation. But while he failed to win any silverware for his nation, Didier Drogba gathered a rather long list of personal and club achievements, The 4-times footballer of the year, 2x African Footballer of the year, 4x English champions, 3x English League cup winner, 4x FA Cup winner, 4x English super cup winner, once Turkish champion, once Turkish cup winner, once Turkish super cup winner and 2011/12 Champions League winner, Didier Drogba has had a bountiful career which made him one of the best American footballer that ever lived.
2. George Weah (Liberia)
By IFFHS the greatest African football player of the 20th century, George Weah was on a whole another level compared to his opponents and teammates alike. Two time African Footballer of the Year and the only African player to win Ballon d’Or, George Weah was also named European Footballer of the year and FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995. Adding to a long list of personal achievements, Weah also won FA Cup, 3x French Cup, became the champions of France with PSG in 1993/94 and won two Serie A titles with Milan in 1995/1996 and 1998/99.
1. Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)
We end our list with the one, the only, Samuel Eto’o, who has managed to build an impressive career with his consistency, which made him one of the best football players of his time. Four-time African Footballer of the Year winner Samuel Eto’o also featured in the top 3 in further four occasions and was voted to be the 3rd in the FIFA World Player of the Year award. Samuel Eto’o also helped Cameroon win two Africa Cups and gold Olympic Medal in 1999/00. While he never won the World Cup, Samuel Eto’o represented the Indomitable Lions in three World Cups.
As far as his club honours go, Samuel Eto’o has won plenty, out of which the most memorable are 3 Champions League titles with Barcelona and Inter Milan, which is an unparalleled achievement among all other African players. His four major league triumphs in two different countries is also a record only bettered by Samuel Kuffour.
Sports journalist, content writer and passionate football lover.