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Top 5 African players in Real Madrid’s history

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Ace Football presents a detailed look at the top African players to have played for the Blancos.

African football has a long and glorious history with La Liga. From players such as Noureddine Naybet, who have become club legends in smaller teams, to icons like Samuel Eto’o, a host of top African players have reached their peak in La Liga.

As the Spanish top-flight’s most decorated club, Real Madrid have been known for their blockbuster signings and star-packed squads. The club’s long affiliation with South American talents has left little room for African talents to develop at Real Madrid. However, several stars have found their way into the Madrid side’s squad at some point in their careers.

Let’s take a look at the greatest African players to have played for Real Madrid.

5- Emmanuel Adebayor 🇹🇬

Source: Euro News

Adebayor spent most of his career in England, where he played for Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham, and Crystal Palace. Struggling for game time at Man City, the Togo star joined Real Madrid on a loan deal in January 2011.

Adebayor quickly found his place in Real Madrid’s lineup under Jose Mourinho. He made 22 appearances for the Blancos, with the highlight of his Real Madrid spell being a hattrick against Almeria. The Togo star won a Copa del Rey at the club while playing in most of their matches during the second half of the season.

The club, however, decided to return Adebayor to City at the end of the 2010-11 campaign. His time in Madrid was a precursor to his great spell at Tottenham, which began the next season.

4- Mutiu Adepoju 🇳🇬

Adepoju is one of the few African talents who gained prominence by playing at Real Madrid’s academy. The Nigerian star joined the Blancos from Julius Berger in 1989.

He was a regular starter for Real Madrid’s B team during his three-year stay at the club. Despite never breaking into the Spanish giants’ first team, Adepoju established himself as a well-known talent in La Liga.

It was enough to earn him moves to Racing and Real Sociedad, where he spent the best years of his career. Adepoju also featured for the Super Eagles in their sensational Africa Cup of Nations triumph in 1994.

3- Michael Essien 🇬🇭

Source: Sky Sports

Following a move from Lyon in 2005, Essien spent seven glorious years at Chelsea and became a club legend. However, several injury setbacks prevented the Ghana star from reclaiming his place in the Blues’ crowded midfield.

In August 2012, Essien eventually accepted a loan deal to join Real Madrid in search of more game time. The Ghanaian legend found his lost spark under his former boss Mourinho, featuring in 35 games for the Blancos.

His performances did not persuade the Blancos to give him a permanent deal. However, they were good enough to earn him a new loan move to Milan, where he played the next season.

Since retiring, Essien has joined FC Norsjaelland as part of their coaching staff. The Danish club has a long history of promoting Ghanaian players in their academy ranks.

2- Mahamadou Diarra 🇲🇱

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Diarra was the type of midfielder whose great performances could easily go unnoticed due to his indistinctive style. His great versatility enabled him to play different roles in midfield while he managed to combine precision with his physicality. 

Diarra won six consecutive Ligue 1 titles at Lyon before moving to Real Madrid in 2006. He helped the Spanish giants to end their four-year trophy drought with their League triumph in his first campaign. 

Initially signed as a replacement for Claude Makelele, Diarra soon became a key part of Real Madrid’s midfield. The Mali midfielder went on to make 126 appearances for the Blancos during his four-year spell. He won another La Liga title and a Copa del Rey trophy before leaving the club in 2011. 

1- Geremi Njidap 🇨🇲

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The two-time Africa Cup of Nations winner joined Real Madrid from the Turkish side Genclerbirligi in 1999. Geremi originally played as a right midfielder but also featured as a central midfielder at Santiago Bernabeu.

The Cameroon great won the Champions League during his first season at the club while still establishing himself as a regular starter. In the next two years, he won another champion League title and a La Liga trophy. 

Geremi’s boss at Real Madrid, Vicente del Bosque, praised him and Steve McManaman in an interview with Marca, saying the pair “kept the whole team united” during those wonderful three years.

However, Geremi slowly slipped down his side’s pecking order during the 2001-02 season. Still being eager to play regularly, he eventually moved to Middlesbrough on a loan deal. Upon his return in 2003, the Spanish giants sold him to Chelsea on a £6.9 million deal.