Africa has always been a source of creativity, talent and competitiveness when it comes to the most popular sport in the world. The continent has been able to produce legendary football players who have shined at the most famous stadiums in the world.
Here is Africa.com’s selection of the best African football legends of all time, names that the world of football will always remember.
Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)
Samuel Eto’o remains on top of Africa’s best players list, who had a great, glorious career winning very prestigious football titles. With FC Barcelona, he was able to win three times in the Spanish league. He also won the European league of champions with the same Catalan team. Besides, Eto’o was twice the African Cup champion with his national team, Cameroon, in 2000 and 2002. In 2010, he was able to add another UEFA Champions League title, but this time with the legendary Inter Milan. Samuel got four African Golden Balls, and was also named the Best Number 9 Player of all time at FC Barcelona.
George Weah (Liberia)
Regarded as one of the greatest African players of all time and one of the best forwards of his generation, Georges Weah is one of the most successful African players in the history of the game. He was selected by the African Football Confederation as Africa’s best footballer in 1989, 1994, and 1995. The Liberian player was at the top of his glory in 1995 when he was awarded the title of FIFA Golden Ball, a distinction he is the only African to hold until now.
He was the champion of France with Paris Saint-Germain Football Club in 1994, and best scorer of the UEFA Champions League with the same club in 1995. However, it was at AC Milan, in the Italian Serie A, that he really shone. In Italy, Weah won two Serie A titles: 1995-96 and 1998-99.
Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
Didier Drogba is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the legendary African players, and the footballer most adored by the Ivorians. After beaming in the French Championship, he joined the English Club of Chelsea in 2004 under the leadership of Portuguese coach, José Mourinho. He is the all-time top scorer and former captain of his national team, Ivory Coast. Drogba was more successful in Europe than with his national team, mainly at Chelsea Club, where he scored more goals than any other foreign player. He got the African Golden Ball twice in 2006 and 2009. With Chelsea, Drogba won four premier league titles, three football league cups, in addition to the prestigious UEFA Champions League in 2012. He was elected by the fans as the Best Player in the History of Chelsea in 2015.
Roger Milla (Cameroon)
With two CANs on his record, Roger Milla is another legendary player from Africa. The Cameroonian footballer had impressed football fans in the biggest African stadiums before flying to Europe, where he experienced an equally great career. Elected twice as the Best in Africa, Roger Milla lifted his country to the quarterfinals at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Roger is still remembered for his magical goal celebrations by running to the corner flag and performing his famous dance. He was named one of the greatest living football players in 2004 by Brazilian football player, Pelé. In 2007, the Cameroonian player was chosen by the CAF as the Best African Player of the previous 50 years.
Yaya Touré (Ivory Coast)
Yaya Touré remains the only African footballer to have won the title of the Best African Player four times in Africa. Winner of the Champions League with FC Barcelona in 2009, and the Spanish league in 2009 and 2010, he joined the English Championship to play for Manchester City for which he was three times Premier League Champion in 2012, 2014, and 2015. Touré realised the dream of all Ivorians by winning the African Cup of Nations with the Elephants of Ivory Coast in 2015
Abedi Pele (Ghana)
Africa will always remember the Ghanaian legend, Abedi Pelé, who is regarded as one of the greatest African footballers of all time. For some, he is the “Pele” of Africa thanks to his exploits on the football field. With the Black Stars of Ghana, he was the champion of the 1982 edition of the CAN before winning 11 years later, in 1993, the UEFA Champions League while playing for the Olympique De Marseille. Abedi Pele was chosen by the CAF Football Confederation as the Best African Player three times in 1991, 1992 and 1993. He was also named the African Player of The Year by BBC in 1992.
Salif Kéita (Mali)
The Malian footballer, Salif Kéita, was the first African player to win the African Golden Ball, a prize awarded since 1970. Three-time winner of the Mali National Cup with Real de Bamako, he joined the French Championship in 1968, evolving under the colors of Saint-Etienne. He was three-time champion of France with the Stephanois before moving to Portugal, where he became champion also with Sporting CP. At the individual level, Salif Kéita got the European Silver Shoe in 1972 and was awarded the title of the Best African Player in the same year.
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Lakhdar Belloumi (Algeria)
Lakhdar Belloumi is the famous Algerian Number 10, who marked the history of football in Africa in the 1980’s. The Algerian midfielder is considered in his country as the greatest footballer of all time. He was able to win the African Golden Ball in 1981. With his national team, the Fennecs of Algeria, Belloumi participated in two World Cups, including the one in 1982, during which he offered the goal of victory to his country against West Germany during the Group Stages. Additionally, he was named best striker of CAN 1980, which took place in Nigeria. He was also elected 4th African Footballer of the century.
After the 1982 World Cup, the PSG, Saint-Etienne, Seville and even Barça, wanted to sign him, but the strict law in Algeria prohibited any player under the age of 28 from leaving the country without a presidential authorization. When the law changed in 1984, and he had the opportunity to leave, a serious injury prevented him.
Lakhdar Belloumi still has a long-lasting impact on Algerian and African football, mainly through his well-known gesture, the blind pass, of which he was the master.
Larbi Ben Barek (Morocco)
Nicknamed “The Black Pearl”, Larbi Ben Barek was an exceptional striker, recognised as the first successful African player in Europe. “If I am the king of football, then Ben Barek is the god.” This compliment was addressed by Pelé, the Brazilian legend, who, during his trip to Morocco in 1976, felt that Ben Barek was the best player of his time.
Coming from the slums of Casablanca, Ben Barek arrived in Marseille, France, and shortly became the talk of the town thanks to his skills and technical abilities. His career was interrupted by the onset of World War II, but he was soon back to his best with Stade Français FC before joining Atlético Madrid, where he truly blossomed and became more popular. “The Foot of God,” as the Spanish fans used to call him, helped Atlético Madrid to win La Liga in 1950 and 1951.
Thomas N’kono (Cameroon)
The Cameroonian, Thomas N’kono, marked the history of African football by being the first goalkeeper selected twice as the Best African Player in 1979 and 1982. No goalkeeper in the continent has managed to win the same title. Thomas N’kono helped his national team to win the 14th edition of the African Cup of Nations hosted by Ivory Coast in 1984. Besides, he was five-time Cameroon Champion with Canon Yaoundé before joining RCD Español in Spain. N’kono received the France Football’s African Footballer Award in 1979 and 1982.