Okocha Missing; Kanu, Drogba Named in Top 10 Greatest African Footballers of All Time

Okocha Missing; Kanu, Drogba Named in Top 10 Greatest African Footballers of All Time

Babajide Orevba
February 22, 2023 at 1:04 PM
  • African football stars have continued to dominate some of the finest leagues in the world
  • Many have argued that Liberian legend George Weah is the best player from the continent
  • Roger Milla, Essam El-Hadary, Kanu Nwankwo have all been listed in Africa's top 10 best

The African continent has produced some of the finest players in world football from time immemorial, with more and more superstars continuing to emerge.

The current president of Liberia is the only player from Africa who received the prestigious Ballon d’Or following his exploits in Italy during his playing days.

Cameroon legend, Roger Milla still holds the record of being the oldest footballer to score a goal in the FIFA World Cup, having scored at the age of 42 years and 39 days.

Here are the 10 greatest African footballers of all-time:

10. Essam El-Hadary (Egypt)

No doubt, 'The High Dam' - as the goalkeeper is fondly called - is one of the greatest African footballers of all time.

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El-Hadary was part of the Pharaohs’ squad that won the African Cup of Nations three consecutive times (2006, 2008 and 2010).

Essam El-Hadary, Egypt, AFCON, Pharaohs
Essam El-Hadary is one of the best goalkeepers to emerge from Africa. Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt.
Source: Getty Images

He is the oldest to ever feature in a FIFA World Cup match, achieving that feat during the 2018 edition of the tournament in Russia.

Hadary won the Egyptian league eight times with Al Ahly. He also won the league title in Sudan with Al-Merreikh.

9. Abedi Ayew ‘Pele’ (Ghana)

Leading the Black Stars of Ghana to AFCON glory in 1982, Abedi Pele remains an icon of African football and is one of the greatest ever from the African continent.

He scored 19 goals in 73 appearances for the Black Stars between 1982 and 1998.

Abedi Pele, Ghana, Black Stars, AFCON
Abedi Pele scored some iconic goals during his playing days. Photo: Alain Gadoffre.
Source: Getty Images

At the club level, Abedi Pele won the French Ligue 1 with Marseille for three consecutive seasons, but the last was scrapped due to a scandal.

He also won the UEFA Champions League title with the club in 1993 after the French club defeated AC Milan in the final - the midfielder was declared 'man of the match'.

The Ghanaian also won the African Footballer of the Year award thrice.

8. Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)

The former Ivorian international was successful both at international and club levels. He captained the Elephants to the AFCON title in 2015, Khelnow reports.

He won the UEFA Champions League with Barcelona and then two La Liga titles.

Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast, CAF, Man City
Yaya Toure won the AFCON title with Ivory Coast in 2015. Photo: Mohamed Hossam.
Source: Getty Images

He was also successful with the English club, Manchester City, winning three Premier League titles and a host of others.

The midfielder also won the African Footballer of the Year award four times.

7. Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria)

Although he did not win the AFCON title during his playing days, Kanu remains one of Africa’s greatest players of all time.

The former Nigerian international featured in three World Cups with the Super Eagles and was also part of the squad that won gold at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.

Kanu Nwankwo, AFCON, Nigeria, Arsenal
Kanu Nwankwo was named the CAF Player of the Year on two occasions. Photo: Olivier MORIN.
Source: Getty Images

At the club level, Kanu won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax and also claimed the Dutch Eredivisie title on three occasions.

‘Papilo’ was also a part of the 2003-04 Arsenal squad managed by Arsene Wenger, which is popularly known as ‘The Invincibles.’

Kanu bagged the CAF Player of the Year Award twice.

6. Roger Milla (Cameroon)

The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) recognises Roger Milla as the second-greatest African player in the last 100 years.

Roger Milla, Cameroon, World Cup, Indomitable Lions
Roger Milla flaunts his trademark celebration after scoring at the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Photo: Henri Szwarc.
Source: Getty Images

He singlehandedly placed Cameroon on the World map when it comes to football. He captained the Indomitable Lions to two AFCON titles.

At the age of 42, he scored against Russia, making him the oldest goal-scorer at the World Cup. Milla was named the CAF Player of the Year on two occasions.

5. Sadio Mane (Senegal)

From the remote village of Bambali, Sadio Mane has defied the odds to become one of the finest African footballers.

He had already featured for Metz and RB Salzburg before he was signed by Liverpool.

Sadio Mane, AFCON, Senegal, Liverpool
Sadio Mane poses with the 2021 AFCON title after leading Senegal to glory. Photo: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU.
Source: Getty Images

Mane won the Champions League with Jurgen Klopp’s side in 2019 and shared the English Premier League Golden Boot with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah.

He captained the Teranga Lions to the AFCON title in 2021 and was twice named CAF Player of the Year.

4. Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

What a fine player Mo Salah is. Despite struggles at Chelsea following a series of loan moves, Salah then got a permanent deal with Italian giants, AS Roma.

Mohamed Salah, Egypt, Pharaohs, AFCON
Mohamed Salah celebrates a goal with his teammates. Photo: KHALED DESOUKI.
Source: Getty Images

His move to Liverpool seems to be the turning point. He has won the UEFA Champions League, Premier League, the FA Cup as well as the Club World Cup.

Although he missed out on the AFCON title having emerged runners-up twice, Salah bagged the CAF Player of the Year Award on two occasions.

3. Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)

The former Ivorian international was a member of Chelsea’s golden generation.

The Blues will never forget his impact on the club as they defeated Bayern Munich in the final to win the Champions League.

Didier Drogba, Chelsea, AFCON, Champions League
Didier Drogba helped Chelsea to the Champions League title in 2012. Photo: Team 2 Sportphoto.
Source: Getty Images

He won four English Premier League titles with the London club and also topped the league’s scorer’s chart in the 2006/07 and 2009/10 seasons.

However, Drogba did not win any major tournament with the national team but was named the CAF Player of the Year on two occasions.

2. Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)

A Cameroonian legend, Samuel Eto’o won the CAF Player of the Year on four occasions. He was also part of the squad that won gold at the Olympic Games in 2000.

Samuel Eto'o, Barcelona, Cameroon, AFCON
Samuel Eto'o painted La Liga with goals during his stint with Barcelona. Photo: CARL DE SOUZA.
Source: Getty Images

Eto’o won three champions League titles, two with Spanish club, Barcelona and one with Italian outfit, Inter Milan.

The striker claimed three La Liga titles and one Serie A title as well. He is AFCON’s record scorer of all time with 18 goals.

1- George Weah (Liberia)

Now the President of Liberia, George Weah is the only African who has won the coveted Ballon d’Or, having bagged the prestigious prize in 1995.

That same year, he was crowned the European Player of the Year as well as the African Footballer of the Year.

George Weah, Liberia, AC Milan, Ballon d'Or, AFCON
George Weah (right) presents his Ballon d'Or trophy to Libaria's former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Photo: STR/AFP.
Source: Getty Images

Weah won the Italian Serie A title with AC Milan on two occasions and also bagged the French Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain.

He was part of the Chelsea squad that won the FA Cup during the 1999-2000 season.

The all-time most skillful footballers

Sports Brief also reported on some footballers being more 'complete' when it comes to the artistry of the game, especially with the ball at their feet.

Very few players are specially gifted in this way, full of so much talent that they can control the ball with every part of their body.

South America has produced some of the finest footballers of all time, from the Brazilian icon, Pele to Argentine maestro, Diego Maradona.

Babajide Orevba photo
Babajide Orevba
HOD- Local Desk