Top 30 Greatest African Footballers of all time

News

Africa has produced many great players who went on achieve alot in African football. We made  a list of the 30 Greatest  players to ever come out of Africa

30. Benni McCarthy


Individual

Don’t let the flabby, ignominious end to his career distract you; Benni McCarthy was once one of Africa’s most feared frontmen.

International Honours

Despite having never won a Cup of Nations with South Africa, McCarthy was the outstanding individual in the 1998 edition. He both was the top scorer and identified as the tournament’s finest player.

Represented Bafana Bafana at two World Cups, but he infamously missed out on home soil in 2010. He remains South Africa’s top scorer of all time.

Club Honours

McCarthy won the Champions League as part of Jose Mourinho’s Porto side, having enjoyed success earlier in his career at Ajax.

He impressed in England at Blackburn Rovers, where he transferred his prolific goal-getting to the Premier League.

29. Jean Manga-Onguene

Undated: Portrait of Jean Manga-Onguene of Cameroon before a match against Zimbabwe in Cameroon. Mandatory Credit: Stu Forster/Allsport

Individual

Recognised by IFFHS as the joint 34th-best African player of the last century, Manga-Onguene won the CAF Footballer of the Year award in 1980.

International Honours

Bad timing cost him the glory of his successors with the Cameroon national side. Manga-Onguene ceased his national team duty only three years before the Indomitable Lions’ first African title.

He returned to manage the national side during a brief, unsuccessful period in the late 90s.

Club Honours

Manga-Onguene spent his whole career with Cameroonian powerhouses Canon Yaounde. During a remarkably successful 16 years, he transformed the club, winning their first six league titles and guiding them to three African Champions League victories.

Upon his departure in 1982, no team in Africa would have more continental championships than Canon—it took 14 years before Zamalek beat their impressive trio.

28. Seydou Keita


Individual

His contributions at Barcelona, where he was an important figure without consistently holding down a first-team spot, were rarely anything less that excellent.

Keita came second in the running for African Footballer of the Year in 2011, beaten only by Yaya Toure.

International Honours

A third-place finish in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 1999 foreshadowed identical finishes in both the 2012 and 2013 Cup of Nations tournaments, when Mali fell short at the semi-final stage.

Club Honours

A favourite of Pep Guardiola, Keita picked up three La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, three Supercopa de Espanas and two Champions League titles during his time in Barcelona.

This is augmented by previous successes at Sevilla and Lorient.

27. Emmanuel Amuneke


Individual

It is certainly true that Amuneke didn’t have a career quite as glittering as his talent should have permitted, but the fact that the player’s injury record associates him eternally tells its own story.

Recognised by IFFHS as the joint 26th-best African player of the last century, this one-time African Footballer of the Year was once runner-up and a former BBC African Player of the Year.

Not a bad haul for one so regularly stuck in the treatment room.

International Honours

Part of the glorious Nigerian generation of the 90s, Amuneke won Olympic gold and an African title in the early 90s as well as represented the Super Eagles at USA ’94.

Club Honours

Once signed by Barcelona for £2.2 million, Amuneke won domestic titles in Nigeria and Egypt before tasting sporadic success in Europe and Asia.

26. Theophile Abega

Football, 1982 World Cup Finals, La Coruna, Spain, 19th June 1982, Cameroon 0 v Poland 0, Cameroon’s Theophile Abega during the group A match (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

Individual

An inspirational figure within an African context, Abega was once named African Footballer of the Year and finished in third place on another occasion.

He was identified as the sixth-greatest African player of the 20th century by IFFHS.

International Honours

Created some of African football’s most iconic images during the 1984 AFCON final, as his glorious late winner against Nigeria secured Cameroon’s first continental title. He was named the Player of the Tournament.

He also represented the Central African giants at a World Cup.

Club Honours

Domestically, The Doctor was a stalwart for Canon Yaounde for a decade, guiding the club to two CAF Champions Leagues in 1978 and 1988.

25. Ahmed Hassan


Individual

One of the finest African passers of his generation, Hassan was a sprightly wide player earlier in his career before moving inside to dictate the play as age crept up on him.

In both 2006 and 2010 he was the AFCON player of the tournament. He suffers, like his teammates, for a persistent failure to qualify for the World Cup.

International Honours

A four-time Cup of Nations champion with Egypt, Hassan remains the world’s most-capped male player ever. His 184 outings for the Pharaohs are unlikely to be bested anytime soon.

Club Honours

Having only represented Al-Ahly for three years, he didn’t amassed the same amount of domestic honours as some of his compatriots.

Time in Belgium and Turkey produced further honours and set Hassan apart from other Egyptian players who struggled abroad.

24. Lauren


Individual

A member of Arsenal’s legendary Invincibles team, Lauren was once runner-up in the African Footballer of the Year award.

International Honours

Another member of that iconic Cameroonian team of the early 2000s, Lauren, playing predominantly as a right midfielder, was present for both AFCON triumphs, the Olympic gold-medal triumph and the World Cups of 1998 and 2002.

He was Player of the Tournament for the Cup of Nations triumph in 2000.

Club Honours

Twice Premier League champion with Arsenal, he also picked up a clutch of other honours during his time in England, the final being the 2008 FA Cup with Portsmouth. He made the PFA Team of the Year in 2004.

23. Bruce Grobbelaar


Individual

Grobbelaar may not have had the pure ability of Thomas N’Kono or Joseph-Antoine Bell, both of whom pipped him in the IFFHS Keeper of the Century list, but he remains one of the continent’s finest stoppers.

International Honours

Capped over 30 times by Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe, he made little tangible impact in international football during a near-20-year career.

Club Honours

Grobbelaar was part of one of Liverpool’s finest teams during one of their most dominant eras, as the Zimbabwean stopper claimed six league titles and three domestic cups. The highlight, though, was the 1984 European Cup final, where his bendy legs and expert penalty saves almost single-handedly helped the Reds stitch another star above those Shankly Gates.

22. Emad Moteab


Individual

Egyptian forward Emad Moteab is not a player that typically belongs in such exalted company and among such illustrious names; however, a glance at the striker’s goal record and big-game impact should convince that his record demands re-evaluation.

He was named Africa’s finest striker in 2005, the same year that he top scored in the Egyptian Premier League.

International Honours

Moaty was present for Egypt’s three AFCON triumphs of the last decade. He scored three times in the 2006 edition, including game-changing goals against the Cote d’Ivoire in the group stage.

Four years later, he bagged two goals—notably a sharp finish against Nigeria that turned the tide of the contest in the Pharaohs’ direction.

He also performed at the London 2012 Olympics and almost put the Pharaohs into the 2010 World Cup.

Now 30, his goal-scoring record for Egypt is 34 goals in 69 games.

Club Honours

Flanked by Mohamed Aboutrika and Mohamed Barakat, he formed an iconic Egyptian offensive line at Al-Ahly.

He has won domestic league titles in Egypt (six) and Saudi Arabia, as well as a memorable collection of continental honours with Ahly.

21. Mahmoud El-Khatib


Individual

Nicknamed Bibo, El-Khatib was Egypt’s icon during the 70s and 80s.

He was honoured as African Footballer of the Year in 1983 and was also named as the Arab Sportsman of the 20th century. He was recognised by IFFHS as the joint 11th-best African player of the last century and by CAF in 2007 as the second greatest.

International Honours

El-Khatib won the continental crown with Egypt in 1986 and also played at the Olympic Games two years earlier.

Club Honours

A hugely dominant figure with Al-Ahly, El-Khatib won almost a dozen domestic titles with the Cairene giants and also helped build the club’s continental reputation, with their first two CAF Champions League triumphs in 1982 and 1987.

20. Mohamed Barakat


Individual

He was named BBC African Player of the Year in 2005 and Egyptian Footballer of the year in 2002 and 2009 as the spread of honours over seven years acknowledges Barakat’s consistency and longevity.

Barakat was a two-time Egyptian Footballer of the Year and the top scorer in the Champions League in 2005.

International Honours

A central part of Egypt’s ridiculously successful decade at the pinnacle of the African game, it’s a shame he was only present for one triumph—the first.

Club Honours

The Mercurial arrived at Al-Ahly in 2004 and embarked on a hugely successful nine years with the club before his retirement earlier in the summer.

He picked up two CAF Champions League titles and seven Egyptian championships among a huge swath of other honours.

19. Patrick Ntsoelengoe


Individual

By all accounts, a remarkable talent. Alan Merrick suggested that he had an ability which matched up with the greatest players of the 70s. Clive Barker argued that had Ace been around in the modern era, his status would be akin to Messi or Ronaldo.

International Honours

Zero, as South Africa were banned from competing by FIFA until 1992, due to the apartheid regime.

Club Honours

Played in America following an early career in South Africa with Kaizer Chiefs, where he enjoyed idol status. Ntsoelengoe had a hugely successful career in outposts as diverse as Toronto, Denver and Minnesota.

18. Rabah Madjer


Individual

Madjer was player of the tournament as Algeria won the Cup of Nations in 1990, recognised as African player of the year in 1987 and was named Algerian Footballer of the 20th century.

The Daily Mail suggested in 2010 that Madjer defined Algeria’s glorious decade in the 80s.

International Honours

Madjer won the African title in 1990 with Algeria, having fallen at the final hurdle a decade earlier. He also represented the Desert Lions in consecutive World Cups.

Club Honours

He found great success in Portugal, making the key contributions as Porto won the European Cup in 1987. This is the highlight amidst a flurry of domestic and other European honours.

17. Geremi


Individual

Geremi was a versatile talent capable of operating in midfield or defence, particularly on the right flank, as well as a set-piece specialist.

International Honours

He was part of the sublime Cameroonian team that claimed Olympic gold in 2000, while also bagging the Cup of Nations in 2000 and 2002 alongside an excellent crop of teammates. Geremi also represented the Indomitable Lions at two World Cups.

Club Honours

Having played at top clubs such as Real Madrid and Chelsea, Geremi is no stranger to domestic honours. A two-time Champions League winner with the Spanish giants, the midfield also managed three major league titles, two minor league ones and a clutch of cup triumphs.

Excluding the World Cup, this boy has the lot.

16. Doctor Khumalo

Individual

The cultured centrepiece of South African football in the 90s, the midfield general was capped 50 times.

International Honours

Along with Radebe, the Doctor was one of the Nation Builders who won the AFCON so emphatically on home soil in 1996. He also scored the only goal of the game in Bafana Bafana’s clash with Cameroon in July 1992—the nation’s first game following independence.

He represented the national side at the 1998 World Cup.

Club Honours

Khumalo amassed numerous tournament wins, not to mention a few domestic championships, during an initial seven years with Kaizer Chiefs. He enjoyed brief stints in Argentina and the USA before returning to Soweto for a final flourish with the Chiefs.

15. Thomas N’Kono


Individual

N’Kono was ranked Africa’s second-best goalkeeper of the last 100 years by IFFHS, second only to his long-term rival Joseph-Antoine Bell.

A two-time African Footballer of the Year, N’Kono also made the podium twice more.

International Honours

First choice for Cameroon at two World Cups, the side were unbeaten and conceded only once in the 1982 edition. N’Kono also won Africa’s top prize with the Indomitable Lions in 1984, although Bell led that team in goal as N’Kono left for his club team.

Club Honours

Having played in Spain with Espanyol for nearly a decade, he achieved major success with Yaounde club Canon. He won a swathe of domestic titles and some continental club honours with Kpa-Kum.

14. Yaya Toure


Individual

A powerhouse midfielder who has taken his game to another level since arriving in England with Manchester City after leaving Barcelona, Toure is the engine room of the Cote d’Ivoire’s Golden Generation.

Twice named African Footballer of the Year in 2011 and 2012, Toure was also named in the PFA Premier League team of the Year in 2012.

International Honours

Despite emerging as one of the finest crops of players ever to be found on the African continent, Yaya, like his compatriots, has suffered a whole series of Cup of Nations heartbreaks.

He has represented the Elephants at two World Cups and will be anticipating a third next summer.

Club Honours

A big-game player, Toure was the outstanding individual in Manchester City’s triumphant Premier League-winning campaign.

That medal came after domestic championships in Cote d’Ivoire, Greece and Spain (two La Liga titles), a whole host of domestic honours and a Champions League title in 2009.

13. Jay-Jay Okocha


Individual

Okocha’s sublime technical ability and flair was recognised by the BBC as he twice won their African Footballer of the Year award—one of only two players to be honoured more than once.

He never claimed the CAF award, but was runner-up on two occasions. He was named among the 125 greatest players in history by Pele.

International Honours

Okocha won Olympic gold as part of the talented Nigerian side of the early 90s and the African title in 1994 alongside Yekini, Amuneke and Co. He excelled at the 2004 edition of the tournament as well, where he was joint top scorer and the competition’s outstanding individual.

He represented the Super Eagles at three World Cups.

Club Honours

The accolades are surprisingly scant for a player of Okocha’s outstanding ability. He settled at Bolton—a setting not quite fitting a star of his calibre—following a decade wandering around various European leagues.

Okocha picked up a obscure collection of silverware from France, Germany and Turkey, but never won a championship title.

Apologists will say that he was simply too aesthetic, too beautiful a player to genuinely play a responsible role at the elite, demanding end of football.

12. Michael Essien


Individual

Arguably football’s the most impressive specimen of the last 10 years, Essien exploded onto the scene as part of a terrific Lyon team before joining Chelsea in 2005.

Once BBC African Player of the Year, Essien has been third on the podium for the CAF award a remarkable four times and runner-up once. That title eludes him in a reality that surely wouldn’t have been the case had injuries not bitten so hard.

International Honours

This is surely an area of regret for Essien. A combination of misfortune and injury has meant that he has not been able to guide this exciting generation of Black Stars as he surely would have hoped. He has achieved little of note with Ghana beyond one World Cup appearance.

Club Honours

This is in stark contrast with his club career, which has been almost undiluted excellence.

A favourite of Jose Mourinho, whom he suspiciously refers to as Daddy, the two men have shared much of their success. Essien has won one Champions League title, four major championships and a large swath of domestic cups.

11. Sammy Kuffour


Individual

A fine central defender who, at the turn of the century, was considered among the finest in Europe. He was twice the runner-up in the African Footballer of the Year award and a one-time BBC African Player of the Year winner.

International Honours

Kuffour represented Ghana at the 2006 World Cup, but came a decade too early to truly enjoy the nation’s current standing within the international community.

Club Honours

He enjoyed a hugely successful 12 years at Bayern Munich, where he won four German cups and six domestic league titles.

While he is famous for his passionate dismay following the 1999 Champions League defeat to Manchester United, Kuffour made up for this with victory over Valencia two years later.

Kuffour is one of only three Ghanaians to win the world’s premier domestic club competition.
10. Wael Gomaa


Individual

The defensive rock at the base of two dominant teams, the Al-Ahly and Egypt sides of the last decade, Gomaa has been remarkably consistent and tremendously unruffled during so many high-profile matches and intense fixtures.

International Honours

An ever-present for the AFCON triumphs of 2006, 2008 and 2010, Gomaa, like the other members of that Egyptian side, failed to make a World Cup.

Club Honours

An enormously successful career both in Egypt and on the continent and with Al-Ahly, Gomaa has been present for five CAF Champions League triumphs. Of all those on this list, only compatriots Hossam Hassan and Essam El-Hadary have won more honours at club level.

9. Mohamed Aboutrika


Individual

Aboutrika is an incredible character and a cult of personality who has been the artist in the heart of Al-Ahly and Egypt over the last prodigiously successful decade. He was the BBC African Footballer of the Year in 2008 and a runner-up in the CAF award that same year.

He was once considered by England-based Italian journalist Gabriele Marcotti to be the finest player not plying his trade in Europe or South America.

International Honours

A talismanic figure for the Pharaohs, Aboutrika won the continental title in 2006 and scored the winning goal as the North African giants retained their title two years later.

Club Honours

Aboutrika hasn’t quite won the honours of some of his compatriots, but has still won a tremendous collection of domestic and continental silverware with both Ismaily and Al-Ahly. He is so regularly a match-winner and a saviour for the Cairene giants.

He is this author’s favourite-ever African player.

8. Abedi Pele


Individual

A genuine global star of the early ’90s, Pele is a three-time African Footballer of the Year and a one-time BBC African Player of the Year.

Named in the top three Africans of all time by IFFHS and identified by his namesake, the great Brazilian, as one of the greatest 125 players to have ever lived.

International Honours

Unfortunately, he never managed to make a World Cup, but won the Cup of Nations with Ghana in 1982. A decade later he was player of the tournament as the Black Stars lost in the final to Cote d’Ivoire.

Club Honours

Abedi Pele built his legacy in southern France with Marseille. A defeated European Cup finalist in 1991, he returned two years later to win OM’s only Champions League to date. Thrice was a Ligue 1 winner at the Velodrome, although at least the last of these titles will forever be tarnished.

7. Kanu


Individual

Twice African Footballer of the Year and twice BBC Footballer of the Year, Kanu earned plaudits across Europe for his innovation, his unique style and his unpredictable, yet remarkable, football skills.

International Honours

The only player on this list to have won Olympic gold but not the Cup of Nations. Persistent failure with Nigeria on the continental arena is, unquestionably, a black mark on Kanu’s record.

Still, he represented the Super Eagles at three World Cups.

Club Honours

Kanu scored 25 in 52 for Ajax, securing a Champions League winner’s medal in the process.

He won two major leagues—the Premier League twice—amidst a host of other honours.

One of few players to have won the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, Olympic gold, the FA Cup and the Premier League, Kanu also endured relegation with Portsmouth at the end of his career.

6. Essam El-Hadary

I argue that El-Hadary, the man Didier Drogba once claimed was his toughest opponent, is critically underrated. In time, I hope that the Egyptian stopper’s reputation will stand alongside those of the very finest goalkeepers to emerge from the continent.

International Honours

El-Hadary was a four-time Cup of Nations winner with Egypt—no one has more titles.

Few of Egypt’s Golden Generation played their part more than El-Hadary. Consider this: Thrice he made the team of the tournament, and over three Cup of Nations finals, he didn’t concede a single goal.

Club Honours

He has won the championship in Sudan with Al-Merreikh and in Egypt with Ahly a remarkable eight times. This is supplemented by an outstanding four African Champions League triumphs and a host of other honours from both Egypt and the continent.

5. Hossam Hassan

Individual

One of many Egyptians to struggle abroad, Hassan’s legacy is built upon his relentless successes with Al-Ahly and the Pharaohs national side.

Hassan may not enjoy the status of some of the other players at the business end of this list due to his failings away from North Africa, but he is a forward who ought to demand international attention.

International Honours

The sublime poacher was a key figure in three of Egypt’s AFCON triumphs and also travelled to the 1990 World Cup with the Pharaohs.

He remains the North Africa’s top scorer of all time, with 68 goals in 176 outings. Seven of those came during the 1998 Cup of Nations, where he was the top scorer.

Club Honours

An irresistible career at club level saw him secure barrel-loads of triumphs with Al-Ahly, whose title of African Club of the Century is due, in no small part, to Hassan’s terrific contributions. Thirteen league titles, five Egyptian Cups and one African Champions League triumph represent a remarkable haul.

He also won a second continental title upon arriving at Zamalek once the affection from Ahly ran dry.

4. Roger Milla

Milla was identified by IFFHS as the second-greatest African player of the last 100 years. Many praise Milla on account of his longevity, but he is one of the few Africans to make a major, vivid impact at a World Cup (like Omam-Biyik and Papa Bouba Diop) whose numbers and honours can back up his immense reputation.

He remains the oldest player (42) to score at a World Cup (1994).

Milla was twice African Footballer of the Year and made the podium a further three times. He made the FIFA 100 and voted by CAF as the African Player of the Century.

International Honours

He represented Cameroon at three World Cups and won the Cup of Nations twice. He was top scorer at the tournament twice and was also Player of the Tournament in 1986. No player can claim to have dominated the continent’s football in the 80s like Milla.

Club Honours

Milla traipsed around a number of clubs in Cameroon and France, accruing some marvellous scoring records at Saint-Etienne, Montpellier, Leopard, Pelita Jaya and Tonnerre.

He won several honours, including a handful of French Cups, but never claimed a major league.

3. Didier Drogba

A tremendous haul of individual honours indicate Drogba’s longevity at the absolute pinnacle of the sport and his standing within the game. A magnificent eight times he has been in the top three African Footballers of the Year, winning the award twice.

International Honours

The almost comical failings of the Cote d’Ivoire’s Golden Generation naturally affect Drogba’s standing among other African greats. Despite appearing at two World Cups with the Elephants, he has thus far been unable to secure a continental title with the CIV—despite coming close on numerous occasions.

The tournament’s joint top scorer in 2010, he remains the all-time top scorer for the Cote d’Ivoire.

Club Honours

Having been one of the talismanic figures of Chelsea’s recent, trophy-laden history, Drogba is one of the most successful Africans of all time in the European game. Certainly no Ivorian has achieved more.

The highlights, certainly, will be the Premier League titles with Chelsea and the Champions League triumph of 2012. Sir Alex Ferguson suggested that the Ivorian frontman won this latter title single-handedly.

Drogba was voted Chelsea’s greatest player in 2012.

2. George Weah

Recognised by IFFHS as the greatest African player of the 20th century, George Weah’s raw materials and sublime ability remains unparalleled.

A two-time African Footballer of the Year, Weah is the only African player to win the Ballon d’Or—receiving the award in 1995. That year he was also named European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year.

A one-time BBC Footballer of the Year award, he was also named in the FIFA 100.

International Honours

Weah’s great failing in terms of these rankings lies here. The diminutive stature of Liberia meant that his 60 caps never led to any success with the Lone Stars. Zero AFCON titles, zero World Cup performances and no significant, tangible international contribution.

It’s hard to deny that this affects the player’s legacy…and his trophy cabinet.

Club Honours

Similarly, for such a precocious, prodigious player, Weah’s successes at club level were perhaps not what you would expect.

Weah won two Serie A titles with Milan and scored that goal against Verona, but never managed to translate his domestic form to the European arena, arriving in Lombardy after the side had enjoyed their glorious era of the early 90s.

He was an FA Cup winner in England with Chelsea and a Ligue 1 champion with Paris Saint-Germain.

1. Samuel Eto’o

Four-time African Footballer of the Year, Eto’o has also featured in the top three on a further four occasions. It is a consistency that few can match.

Eto’o was once voted third in the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

International Honours

A crucial part of the great Cameroon side so heavily represented within this list, Eto’o won two Cup of Nations tournaments, Olympic gold and represented the Indomitable Lions in three World Cups.

He has also made significant triumphs to the national side’s African outings, being the top scorer in both the 2006 and 2008 editions of the tournament.

Eto’o remains Cameroon’s all-time scorer and is the all-time scorer in Cup of Nations history.

Club Honours

Eto’o has won three Champions Leagues with Barcelona and Internazionale—an unparalleled achievement among African players.

Four major league triumphs in two different countries is a record only bettered by Samuel Kuffour.

He was Man of the Match in the 2006 Champions League final.

 

**The list only consist of African players who have already retired from Football

Credit: Bleacherreport

 

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