Most Famous African Football Players

  • George Weah is the only African Ballon d’Or winner
  • Samuel Eto’o won the Champions League with two different teams
  • Didier Drogba was twice the Premier League’s top goalscorer
most famous African football players
George Weah in 1995 – Image source: Allsport / Getty Images via Wikimedia Commons

Though football leagues in Africa might not be as strong as in Europe or South America, from time to time talented players have emerged from different countries in the continent. In the most famous African football players we can find earlier and current stars of top European teams. Most of them won trophies with their clubs and became popular all over the world. 

Surely everyone can think of great African players from earlier times. Like George Weah from the 1990s or Didier Drogba from the 2000s to today’s greatest footballers, like Mo Salah and Sadio Mane. These players all enjoyed the love of the fans and also helped the growth of football in the continent. They showed that anyone can reach the top from even the poorest village, with lots of practice,  endurance, and hard work.

1. George Weah

George Weah is one of the most famous African football players in history. He is the only African player to win the Ballon d’Or, which he received in 1995. He played for Monaco first then Paris Saint-Germain where he won Ligue 1. Though Weah never won the Champions League, he was the top scorer in the 1994-95 season when the team reached the semi-finals. He moved to AC Milan in 1995 and won two Seria A titles with the club. The striker didn’t achieve such results with the Liberia National Team but did a lot to support the team. He even paid for the players to travel to games and offered bonuses. No wonder he is loved by people in Liberia and was voted as a president in 2018. 

2. Samuel Eto’o

Samuel Eto’o has won the African Player of the Year award four times, at the beginning of the 2000s and in 2010. He achieved his biggest successes with FC Barcelona, where he won the Champions League twice, in 2006 and 2009, scoring in both finals. He was a key player in the team and main goal scorer along with Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, and Thierry Henry. In 2010 he joined Inter Milan, where he also became UCl champion. Eto’o is only the fourth player to win the tournament with two different teams in consecutive years. Besides his club results, he also led Cameroon to the Olympic title in 2000. The team also won the Africa Cup of Nations twice, in 2000 and 2002. 

3. Didier Drogba

He was one of the best players of the Premier League and Chelsea. Like many other African players, Didier Drogba also started his international career in France.  He reached the UEFA Cup final with Olympique de Marseille then he joined Chelsea in 2004. He won the Premier League four times with the Blues and in 2011/12 season the Champions League. Drogba scored a goal and a penalty in the shoot-out to defeat Bayern Munich. He was the top goalscorer of the Premier League in 2007 and 2010 as online sportsbooks news in the UK also mentioned. Drogba led the Ivory Coast national team to its first World Cup in 2006 where he scored the team’s first goal. They also reached the Africa Cup of Nations finals twice but lost there both times. 

most famous African football players
Drogba earned huge achievements – Image source: Flickr

4. Yaya Toure

Yaya Toure was a versatile player who could help both in attacks and defense. He reached his best results with two top clubs, FC Barcelona and Manchester City. He joined Barca in 2007 and was part of the Champions League winning team in 2009. In the following year he moved to Man City where he became an even more important player. Toure helped the team win its first PL title in 2012, then two more times in 2014 and 2018. He scored 20 goals in 2014 as only the second midfielder to do that. He was voted four times as the African Footballer of the Year between 2011 and 2014. Toure won the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast in 2015 and became the captain of the team after Drogba’s retirement. He is still playing, currently in the Chinese Super League which supposed to continue in June or July. 

5. Roger Milla

One of the first African football stars was Roger Milla, who actually became famous in the World Cups at an older age. He was 38 when he scored four goals in the 1990 World Cup and helped the Cameroon national team to reach the quarter-final. What’s more, he appeared four years later as well, at the age of 42, and became the oldest goalscorer of the World Cups. The team won before the Africa Cup of Nations twice, in 1984 and 1988. Milla was also voted twice as African Player of the Year in 1976 and 1990. At club level he achieved success in France, where he won the French Cup with Monaco and Bastia. 

most famous African football players
Nwankwo Kanu in 2017 – Image source: Photo by ChensiyuanCropped and retouched by Danyele / CC BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons

6. Nwankwo Kanu

The greatest Nigerian player, Nwankwo Kanu achieved great success with Ajax first. There he was part of the Champions League winning team in 1995. In the following year he joined Inter but couldn’t play much due to his heart surgery. In 1999 he moved to Arsenal, where he scored 17 goals in his first season. But he was used often as a substitute only in the team of Invincibles. With Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp starting. Kanu left the club in 2004 and played after at West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth. The latter won its first FA Cup thanks to Kanu’s goals. He was also voted twice as African Player of the Year and won the Olympic gold with Nigeria in 1996. 

7. Michael Essien

The Ghanaian midfielder won Ligue 1 with Olympique Lyon in 2004 and 2005 before joining Chelsea. He became a key player in the team and achieved more success with them. Like winning 2 Premier League, 4 FA Cup, and 1 Champions League titles. With the national team he didn’t achieve such results. Though he was part of the team in the 2006 World Cup which reached the last 16 but lost there against Brazil. The team won the bronze in 2008 and silver in 2010 in the Africa Cup of Nations. They can try again to achieve great results in the next World Cup in 2022 Qatar according to the bet365 Sportsbook. 

+ Today’s biggest stars

We have to mention two more great African stars, who belong to the world’s best players today. Mohamed Salah from Egypt and Sadio Mane from Senegal who both play at the moment in Liverpool. They are superb strikers, working together perfectly, and have already helped the Reds to the Champions League victory last season. Online gambling sites in the UK were also predicting their win in the Premier League. Hopefully, we can see them soon back on the pitch, when the PL can continue. 

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