With the 2019 African Cup of Nations set to get underway, SportPesa commemorates the event by ranking the top five African players of all time.
A central part of Barcelona’s success under Pep Guardiola, Samuel Eto’o was outstanding for the Catalan giants during their period of domination that saw them sweep up honours, both home and abroad. Scoring in both the 2006 and 2009 Champions League finals, Eto’o was no stranger to the big games and his treble of trophies won with Barcelona in the famous 2009 season was followed up the next year when he won another hatrick of trophies with Inter Milan. Eto’o remains the only player to win two consecutive trebles with different clubs.
On the international front, Eto’o replicated his club form when representing Cameroon with 56 goals in 118 appearances. Although his performances at the World Cup were mixed, Eto’o was a revelation in the African Cup of Nations as he helped his country to successive continental crowns in 2000 and 2002. His contributions were often recognised by his peers with Eto’o taking multiple individual awards that bolster his position as Africa’s greatest ever footballer.
The only African player to win football’s prestigious Ballon d’Or, George Weah’s sensational form at AC Milan made him instantly recognisable as one of the world’s finest footballers during an era when Serie A was Europe’s number one league by quite a distance. Despite Weah’s unbelievable ability, his trophy count is not as you would imagine with the bulk of Milan’s European success occurring before his arrival. Still, Weah did still manage two league titles with Milan as well as domestic success with PSG and Chelsea.
For Liberia, Weah, surrounded by teammates nowhere near his level, was unable to singlehandedly catapult his homeland to international success. Arguably the best player to never perform at a World Cup, Weah found glory in his country’s jersey hard to come by, but that shouldn’t take away his massive contribution in club football where he widely regarded as one of football’s best ever players.
It’s difficult to envision Chelsea having any recent success with the input of Didier Drogba who was a revelation for the London side from the moment Jose Mourinho signed him from Marseille. Possessing every single attribute imaginable for a centre forward, Drogba’s blend of pace, power and precision made him one of the world’s most feared strikers as he fired Chelsea to glory with honours won both home and abroad.
Despite Drogba’s phenomenal success for Chelsea, he couldn’t transform club success into international accolades, but he was consistently trying as Ivory Coast fell short on so many occasions. Drogba was a relentless nuisance in multiple World Cup and African Cup of Nations, but he was never able to get his country over the line when it mattered most. At his absolute peak, he was one of the most unplayable strikers of all time.
It took a while for Yaya Touré’s potential to finally develop, but by the time the Ivorian midfielder arrived at Manchester City in the summer of 2010, an already quality player was about to take his performance up to an altogether different level as he delivered a number of honours to the English club. A dominant midfielder, Touré could clean up at both ends of the pitch as he became a model of high-class consistency for a City side enjoying its most successful period ever.
For his nation, Touré captured one major accolade when he captained the Ivory Coast to the 2015 African Cup of Nations. His World Cup performances brought glimpses of his club form, but it’s for his time with Manchester City that Touré will be fondly remembered for as he cemented his place as one of the world’s best players for a number of years.
Bursting onto the scene at the 1993 FIFA Under 17 World Cup, Nwankwo Kanu helped fire Nigeria to glory before Europe’s leading clubs formed a queue for his signature. Eventually, Kanu settled for Ajax and it was there that he won the Champions League in 1995 before going onto to represent some of the world’s biggest clubs including Inter Milan and Arsenal.
For his home nation, Kanu’s crowning moment came in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where Nigeria won gold by beating Argentina in the final after eliminating Brazil in the semis. Kanu participated in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups where Nigeria enjoyed mixed fortunes, but like many African players before him, and since, he wasn’t able to take his country to the levels that his clubs operated on.