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Ranked! The 8 Greatest Playmakers in the History of African Football
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The playmaker is one of the primary attractive factors of world football. His exuberance, imagination and creative play help to enthral those who watch and play alike.
Although there seems to be quite a definitive idea of a playmaker, eloquent authors have diluted the playmaker into two separate ideas.
He is sometimes likened to an orchestrator, the conductor to the team's orchestra, directing all that happens on the pitch. The other idea is that of a saviour, one who can turn a drab, quashed game into majestic, open football in a single moment.
Everybody has their favourite, be it one of their own team or someone they grew up watching and trying to emulate in the playground.
Trying to list the best from any era is, of course, entirely subjective, but here are eight of best playmakers from Africa…
8. Mustapha Hadji
Mustapha Hadji is fondly remembered by Coventry City supporters, as he spent two seasons with the Sky Blues between 1999 and 2001 under the reign of Gordon Strachan.
The Moroccan was an accomplished attacking midfielder who was unfortunate not to achieve much success with the Atlas Lions on the international stage.
However, he was able to leave a mark on the 1998 World Cup, where he put in a dazzling individual display against Norway - which contributed to him being named African Footballer of the Year.
7. Serge Alain Maguy
He passed like a shooting star. But his talent came from another planet. Serge Maguy was one of the best of his generation.
African champion in 1992 with the Elephants of Côte d'Ivoire, he made African football history following his signing at Atlético Madrid, from Africa Sport d'Abidjan in 1993.
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His left foot was golden and his passes broke the lines like never before.
6. Seydou Keita
Seydou Keita was never able to establish himself as a regular starting midfielder for Barcelona, but his contributions to La Blaugrana did not go unnoticed.
A versatile midfielder capable of carrying out any role in the centre of the park, Keita made over 100 appearances for Barcelona during their hugely successful period under Pep Guardiola, where they won 14 titles.
5. Theophile Abega
Nicknamed the ‘doctor’ for his technical and tactical intelligence, Theophile Abega was a pioneering Cameroonian midfielder who captained his country to their first ever AFCON success in 1984.
Abega scored the winning goal in the final against Nigeria and went on to be named as the player of the tournament. He also won two African Champions League titles with Canon Yaounde in 1978 and 1988.
4. Lakhdar Belloumi
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Arguably, Belloumi is widerely regarded as the best Algerian footballer of all time. His performances in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups left everyone in the mood for B. Lakhdar Belloumi was a big one.
On the pitch he was the playing master of the Fennecs. He has never won a CAN, but he remains in the hearts of Algerian fans forever.
The 1981 African Ballon d'Or winner has 100 caps with its national team for 28 goals scored and countless assists.
3. Mohamed Aboutrika
Mohamed Aboutrika was another member of Al Ahly’s ludicrously successful side of the 2000’s, who primarily played as an attacking midfielder in behind the striker – and did so to great effect.
He made 100 appearances for Egypt, was a part of their 2006 and 2008 AFCON winning squads and was voted African Footballer of the Year in 2008.
He also featured at the 2012 Olympics, where he registered two goals and two assists as Egypt reached the quarter-finals.
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2. Austin Okocha
There are very few players in Premier League history who can be placed in the same bracket as Jay-Jay Okocha when it comes to technical flair.
The Nigerian - who settled at Bolton Wanderers after stints at Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce and PSG - was a master with the ball at his feet, rivalling the likes of Ronaldinho when it came to montage-worthy tricks and flicks.
Okocha didn’t enjoy a particularly successful club career with regards to silverware, but he achieved plenty of individual recognition during his playing days – including seven Nigerian Footballer of the Year awards and two African Footballer of the Year awards.
1. Abedi Pele
George Weah, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o may make their own cases, but Abedi Pele might just be the greatest African footballer of all time.
Named as Man of the Match in the Champions League final in 1993 having been a losing finalist in 1991, Pele was the playmaker around some wonderful attacking players in those Marseille teams: Rudi Voller, Alen Boksic, Chris Waddle, Jean-Pierre Papin and Eric Cantona.
First winning the African Cup of Nations in 1982, Pele would eventually captain Ghana until his international retirement in 1998. He was named African Footballer of the Year in three consecutive years at the start of the 1990s.