Who are the best African players of all time? We delve into the list of footballers from the continent who etched their names in football history.
Who reigns supreme on the football pitches of Africa? The question echoes through the annals of the sport’s history. In our exploration of the best African players of all time, we embark on a journey that transcends borders, celebrating the mastery and magic of football’s most iconic figures from the continent. From dazzling dribbles to awe-inspiring goals, these legends have left an indelible mark on the beautiful game.
10. Jay Jay Okocha 🇳🇬
Jay Jay Okocha was a maestro on the football pitch. His unparalleled skill, infectious joy, and flair defined an era. It led him to an incredible seven Nigerian Footballer of the Year awards. His mastery over the ball, characterized by sublime dribbling and breathtaking tricks, set him apart as a true artist of the game.
Okocha took his talents worldwide, winning silverware with Paris Saint-Germain and Fenerbahce. The midfielder is best remembered for his spell at Bolton, where he lit up English football and some dazzling displays. He also helped inspire Nigeria to AFCON glory in 1994.
9. Nwankwo Kanu 🇳🇬
Nwankwo Kanu was a towering figure, who earned greatness through a combination of skill, intelligence, and resilience. His elegant style of play, marked by deft touches and sublime ball control, showcased a rare level of technical finesse. What truly set him apart, however, was his knack for scoring crucial goals in critical moments.
This was on full display in 2008, as Kanu scored the winning goals for Portsmouth in the FA Cup semi-finals and the final itself. The striker was a Champions League winner at Ajax, a UEFA Cup winner at Inter Milan, and a member of Arsenal’s legendary “Invincibles” squad. His displays earned him the prestigious African Football of the Year award in 1996 and 1999.
8. Roger Milla 🇨🇲
Renowned for his quick turns, agility, and clinical finishing, Roger Milla was a nightmare for opposing defenses. The attacker embodied a spirit of resilience and joy, often celebrating goals with his trademark corner flag dance. His contributions not only elevated Cameroon on the global football stage but also solidified him as a true legend.
Mila spent the bulk of his club career in Cameroon and France. The two-time African Footballer of the Year won numerous honors. These included five league titles with Leopards Douala and two French Cups. He also had a hand in Cameroon’s AFCON successes in 1984 and 1988.
7. Yaya Toure 🇨🇮
Yaya Toure’s greatness stemmed from a rare combination of power, finesse, and versatility. The Ivorian was a commanding presence in midfield and possessed an unparalleled ability to dictate the game’s tempo. He also had a knack for scoring crucial goals, with powerful long-range shots and well-timed runs. He ended up winning four successive African Footballer of the Year awards from 2011 to 2014.
Toure is best remembered for his spells at Barcelona and Manchester City. His performances helped the clubs to several major honors, including the Champions League. He was instrumental for City’s run to Premier League success in 2012, 2014, and 2018. The crowning moment was his career came in 2015, when he led Ivory Coast to AFCON glory.
6. Sadio Mane 🇸🇳
Sadio Mane’s lightning-quick pace and nimble footwork make him a constant threat. The attacker’s skillful movement through small areas and ability to leave defenders behind demonstrates are one of a kind. He even finished second in the 2022 Ballon d’Or, a true testament to his skill.
Mane is often ranked as one of the best African players of all time, and for good reason. The winger has done it all. He has won league titles in England, Germany, and Austria, as well as the coveted Champions League. His career was complete in 2022, when he led Senegal to a maiden AFCON title.
5. Abedi Pele 🇬🇭
Abedi Ayew’s legacy is that of a footballing pioneer who helped elevate African football to new heights. His greatness is woven into the fabric of his exceptional skill, vision, and leadership. There were truly few like him. Some observers even compared him to Brazilian icon Pele, nicknaming him ‘Abedi Pele’.
Pele had great success in France with Marseille and Lille, winning the Champions League and Ligue 1 twice. He also made the running for the FIFA World Player of the Year prize twice, ranking ninth in 1992, and won the African Footballer of the Year award on three occasions.
4. George Weah 🇱🇷
George Weah is not just a football legend but a symbol of inspiration and resilience. His iconic journey from Liberian football to the summit of world football reflects not only his individual brilliance but also his impact on the global stage. To this day, he is the only African to have won the iconic Ballon d’Or.
Weah showcased his skill as a striker with a rare blend of finesse and strength. The Liberian starred for AS Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, and Chelsea. He won silverware at all these clubs. He even finished as the Champions League’s top scorer in 1994/95, before winning a second African Footballer of the Year prize later that year.
3. Didier Drogba 🇨🇮
Renowned for his strength, Didier Drogba was a formidable presence in the penalty area. His aerial ability and powerful strikes often left defenders scrambling. The striker was a clutch performer and a complete player, with deft touches, precise passing, and a goal-scoring ability in his arsenal.
Drogba’s career peaked at Chelsea. The two-time African Footballer of the Year played a pivotal role in the club’s success. This included their historic UEFA Champions League triumph in 2012. and run to four Premier League titles. He also thrived on the international stage, scoring a record 65 goals in 105 games for the Ivory Coast.
2. Samuel Eto’o 🇨🇲
In his prime, Samuel Eto’o was a clinical finisher with a poacher’s instinct. The striker found the back of the net with finesse and precision, while boasting a remarkable speed and agility. He was a constant threat to defenses, a big-game player, and a four-time African Footballer of the Year recipient.
Eto’o’s adaptability was evident in his successful transitions between different football leagues. The Cameroonian enjoyed success around Europe, particularly with Barcelona and Inter Milan. He famously led Inter to a treble in 2009/10 and helped Cameroon win two AFCON titles.
1. Mohamed Salah 🇪🇬
Mohamed Salah is the modern-day inspiration for aspiring players across Africa. The attacker has elevated the profile of Egyptian football and ranks top of our list of the best African players of all time. It’s no accident either, as this is a player that has done it all in the beautiful game.
Salah has had his fair share of ups and downs. However, he now stands as one of the best footballers on the planet. His pace, nimble dribbling, and clinical finishing have made him a formidable force. The Egyptian is the highest-scoring African player in Premier League and Champions League history. He has won both competitions with Liverpool, as well as three Golden Boots in England.