Who are the best African football players of all time?
We considered the leadership ability, trophies won, awards, contribution and calibre of team played for and most importantly contribution to home country and African football respectively. Some may have not met all the criteria listed above but when you consider the dignity, attention and respect they brought to African, its noteworthy.
We decided to choose 11 because Africans who have played in various clubs around the world equally represent the continent irrespective of trophies. Some were good that trophies that would have crowned their efforts eluded them due to either the management of the club they played for, the team selection, match officials decisions, costly mistakes in the play.
Alright here goes the list, feel free to comment.
- SAMUEL ETO’O FILS
- GEORGE WEAH
- ROGER MILLA
- DIDIER DROGBA
- YAYA TOURE
- KANU NWANKWO
- ABEDI PELE
- MICHAEL ESSIEN
- JAY JAY OKOCHA
- RABAH MADJER
- EMMANUEL ADEBAYOR
#1 SAMUEL ETO’O FILS
In any event, Eto’o was great when he performed. The player captured much of the Champions League, becoming the richest African footballer. As a striking machine, he was superbly prolific. No soccer player from Africa will stand to be more notable than Cameroon’s all-time legend Samuel Eto’o, without a doubt around our best. Eto’o has received 4 African Player of the Year honors, along with Yaya Toure. Eto’o was a part of the teams that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2000 and 2002, and was a gold medal winner at the 2000 Summer Olympics prior to helping Cameroon capture the AFCON title in two separate competitions.
For the Catalans, he scored 130 goals, capturing the treble in the 2008-2009 campaign. In both finals, Eto’o raised two UCL trophies for Barcelona netting goals. Furthermore, the Cameroon international won the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Champions League with Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho.
The player has twice won both FIFA and UEFA Teams of the Year and was seventh in the 2005 edition of the FIFA World Grand Prize for Players. Eto’o has an incredible array of personal distinctions to his credit and has played with an exceptional number of fantastic clubs.
The four-time African Footballer of the Year demonstrated unbelievable consistency. He participated in three World Cups with the Indomitable Lions. He has also won tremendous successes in the African matches of the national team, becoming the top goal scorer in both the 2006 and 2008 tournaments.
Eto’o is the unrivalled goal scorer for Cameroon and is the best Cup of Nations scorer ever.
Africa’s most decorated player.
#2 GEORGE WEAH
Though ranking number 2 in our list here, George Weah is truly the greatest African player ever by weight of honor.
Since winning both in 1995, this man remains the first African footballer to win the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year. Three times, he has bagged the African Player of the Year. Before winning two Serie A crowns with AC Milan, he helped PSG win the League title in 1994, where he had his most prosperous spell. In his professional career, Weah netted over 200 goals. He is a big national hero, and he is now the President of Liberia, his country. An incredible man.
#3 ROGER MILLA
Many would argue that he is the best player in Africa, and that’s a fair statement. He was an engine room. In his professional career, Roger Milla scored 438 goals in 794 matches. He twice received the African Player of the Year award and twice won the National Cup for Cameroon as well. He made the all-star squad for the World Cup and was the third top goal scorer in 1990. At 42, Milla became the oldest player to have ever played in the 1994 World Cup final.
#4 DIDIER DROGBA
In the field, a predator or you can call him a bully cum hazardous threat in the box. One of the best strikers in the Premier League ever and certainly a Chelsea Legend. Twice named African Player of the Year and finished in the top three and eight outstanding times. In his professional career, Drogba scored over 300 goals and won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three English League Cups, two Community Shields and one UEFA Champions League trophy. He earned a golden boot in the Premier League, and twice made the Premier League team of the year.
#5 YAYA TOURE
There are not many words that need to be said about Yaya Toure. The Midfielder could star on the pitch anywhere, which was why he had a top quality run of success. He’s easily the best midfielder ever produced in Africa. While at Barca, he won absolutely everything there was to win, then joined Man City, where he played a key role in winning them the League title. His power, vision, and instinct for goal scoring is unprecedented. He has won African Player of the Year player 4 times. A real big legend.
#6 KANU NWANKWO
He needs no introduction! One of the few players to win the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League, the FA Cup, the Olympic Gold Medal and the UEFA Cup, this guy won nearly all. At Ajax, he has won the Holland Eredivisie three times and was twice named African Player of the Year. A legend for both Arsenal and Ajax as well as Portsmouth, he is the best Nigerian player of all time.
#7 ABEDI PELE
Abedi Pele, in 1982 he won the Cup of Nations with Ghana. Three times was a Ligue 1 champion at the Velodrome.
Pele, an outstanding mid-90s international superstar, is a three-time African Footballer of the Year and a one-time BBC African Player of the Year. Named by the IFFHS as one of the top three Africans ever and recognised by his namesake, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, as one of the best 125 footballers to have ever existed.
With Marseille, Abedi Pele made his name in southern France. A 1991 European Cup finalist loser, he came back two years later to win the UEFA Champions League with Olympic Marseille to date.
#8 MICHAEL ESSIEN
Until joining Chelsea in 2005, Michael Essien made his name as a part of an impressive Lyon side. Africa’s BBC Player of the Year. He once played for Ghana in the World Cup. However, with his club level records, there is a major gap, which was basically undiluted grandeur.
The player has won one UEFA Champions League cup, four big titles in the Premier League and several national championships. A complete midfielder.
#9 JAY JAY OKOCHA
No one comes close to Jay-Jay when it comes to sheer creativity and trickery, squad leadership and motivation, so good that he was named twice. He can dribble a whole team, play box to box, long range throwing trickery, vision and he was a regular in all the teams on which he starred. Jay Jay Okocha was a wonder to watch, mentoring world great footballer and one of the greatest dribblers, Ronaldinho while at Paris Saint Germain.
He was famous for being one of the world’s best users of the feints, especially the fast stepover technique, touch line dribbler and was one of the greatest ever midfielders to shoot curvy long range shots that made him a freekick wizard in the order of David Beckham. You can’t ignore him when he was on the pitch. So good that the legendary Brazilian playmaker Pele named him among the world’s 125 greatest footballers alive. Okocha was a menace to defenders, who feared coming too close and in a hurry to avoid dribbling embarassment. He humiliated Oliver Kahn one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers that became the goal of the season by a shooting feint, tosing 3 defenders 3 consecutive times, before scoring Oliver Kahn that remained on the floor for some time.
With the giant Paris Saint Germain, he won the French super cup. He moved to England helping bring Bolton Wanderers to the Premier League, finishing sixth, surprised by many. This astonishing leadership feat, for the first time, took Bolton to the Europa League and no African has neared this unique ability. He has won with his country the African Cup of Nations and Olympic Gold and had several individual honors, including two awards for BBC African Player of the Year.
#10 RABAH MADJER
A fairly unknown name, but “Mustapha” is an all-time great. Widely known as the greatest player ever in Algeria, he was voted the best of the last century. For Portuguese outfit FC Porto, he is a hero as his goal was key in the final of the 1987 European Cup, which he helped his side win. This was after he helped Algeria in 1982 to reach their first ever World Cup finals. With Porto, Madjer won nine big titles and netted more than 150 goals.
#11 EMMANUEL ADEBAYOR
A talented Togolese footballer who plays as a striker. He has previously played for Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace English teams, as well as French side Metz, Monaco Monégasque team, Real Madrid Spanish team, Istanbul Başakşehir and Kayserispor Turkish clubs, and Olimpia Asunción of Paraguay.
While playing at Arsenal, he was voted African Footballer of the Year for 2008, and during his later career, when he joined Olimpia Asunción in 2020, he became the most iconic signing in Paraguayan football and the highest paid player in the history of the country.