African football has produced a plethora of extraordinary talents over the years, with players who have left an indelible mark on the global stage. From dazzling skills to breathtaking goals, these stars have shone for club and country.
With the Africa Cup of Nations approaching the business end of the tournament, we’ve decided to celebrate some of the continent’s finest-ever talent.
Here are five of the best African footballers of all time.
George Weah (Liberia)
George Weah remains the only African player to have won the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or awards, having claimed the game’s greatest individual accolades in 1995.
Weah was a forward of incredible speed, skill and goalscoring prowess, starring on the Champions League stage for Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan. He scored 58 goals in 148 appearances for the latter, where he won two Serie A titles.
Liberia’s all-time record goalscorer, Weah had short spells in the Premier League during his latter career at Chelsea and Manchester City.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 5, 2023
His impact on his nation extended off the pitch after retirement, with the two-time African Footballer of the Year later becoming the President of Liberia.
Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
Didier Drogba is recognised as one of the finest centre-forwards Africa has produced, following a memorable career that scaled its greatest heights at Chelsea.
A relative late bloomer, he rose to prominence during a spectacular season at Marseille, before completing a £24m switch to Stamford Bridge. Drogba became a figurehead of Chelsea’s most successful era, cementing a reputation as one of the Premier League’s best number nines.
He scored 164 goals across two spells at Chelsea, where he won four Premier League titles and the Golden Boot twice.
Didier Drogba days 😌🇨🇮 pic.twitter.com/PfMNvyotR5
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 13, 2024
Arguably the greatest big-game player of his era, Drogba scored 10 goals in 10 cup finals for Chelsea, producing decisive moments on the big occasions time and time again.
Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)
Samuel Eto’o is another name who is his nation’s all-time leading scorer, having hit 56 goals for the Cameroon national team.
Eto’o’s career was illustrious with club and country, representing European giants Barcelona and Inter Milan while winning the Africa Cup of Nations twice and Olympic Gold with Cameroon.
Eto’o was an instinctive goalscorer who won a wealth of honours, including three Champions League trophies and four league titles across spells in La Liga and Serie A.
He became the first – and so far only – player to win continental trebles with different clubs and the fourth to win back-to-back Champions League crowns with different clubs.
No player has been named African Footballer of the Year on more occasions than Eto’o, who claimed the honour a joint-record four times.
Yaya Touré (Ivory Coast)
Yaya Touré was the midfield powerhouse who helped drive Manchester City’s rise to the elite.
A statement signing from Barcelona, having won a continental treble among his honours with the Spanish side, Toure became a tour-de-force in the Premier League.
Known for his exceptional passing, power, and goalscoring ability from midfield, Touré won three Premier League titles as the Citizens evolved into England’s dominant force.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 13, 2023
On the international stage, he was named African Footballer of the Year for four consecutive years between 2011 and 2014, before captaining the Ivory Coast to AFCON success in 2015. He won 101 caps for Les Éléphants, scoring 19 times.
Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
Mohamed Salah continues to cement his place among Africa’s all-time greats, following a goal-laden career at the highest level of European football.
Salah is the highest-scoring African footballer in Premier League history (153), Champions League history (44) and UEFA club competitions (56). He also has more assists (67) than any African player in the Premier League.
The Egyptian forward has evolved into a Liverpool legend during his six-and-a-half seasons at Anfield, scoring 204 goals in 332 games for the Reds to date.
A three-time winner of the Premier League’s Golden Boot, his consistency around goal has propelled Liverpool to multiple honours, including the 2019 Champions League and a drought-breaking Premier League crown a year later.
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