Liverpool have landed the league title they have craved for the last thirty years but what makes their title-winning side even more special is how manager Jurgen Klopp has masterfully brought in players from across the globe to construct this incredible side. The Reds have an extremely diverse and cosmopolitan line up, spearheaded by a front three including Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah who are both of African descent. With that in mind we decided to put together a list of the five best African footballers in Premier League history.
Best African footballers in Premier League history
5) Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo)
The king of controversy, Emmanuel Adebayor, enjoyed eleven seasons in the Premier League. Despite playing for Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, the striker never actually won any silverware in England. However, this didn’t stop the former Real Madrid striker from bagging goals for fun in England, scoring 97 in total which makes him the second-highest African Goalscorer in Premier League history.
Adebayor was fierce, powerful and full of energy. In other words, he was a defender’s nightmare. Togo’s all-time top scorer was signed by Arsene Wenger in 2006 and stepped straight into the first-team setup due to his similarity to former fan favourite Nwankwo Kanu. The striker did lack discipline early in his career but, under the guidance of Wenger, Adebayor made the number 25 shirt his own and was held in high regard by the Arsenal faithful. That was, of course, until he signed for Manchester City, scored against the Gunners and ran the length of the pitch to knee slide in front of the fans who once adored him. Ouch.
4) Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
Merseyside’s Egyptian King. Former FC Basel winger Mohamed Salah failed to hit the floor running when he signed for Chelsea in 2014, scoring just twice in 14 appearances over two years. However, a spell in Italy revived the forward’s career.
The winger has since won the Golden Boot and the PFA Player’s Player of the Year to name but a few of the individual accolades he has collected since arriving at Anfield. The quick-thinking, speed and finesse of Salah helped him score 32 league goals in the 2017-18 season, breaking the Premier League’s record for most goals by one player in a single season.
Since his £50million arrival, Salah has completely changed the dynamics of the Liverpool attack. He is a constant threat and can spark life into a game at any moment, his darting runs in behind the backline and constant rotation with left winger Sadio Mane makes him a worry for the entire defensive line. Already one of the best African footballers in Premier League history, if Salah continues to play at such an incredibly high standard he will progress further up this list in due course.
3) Michael Essien (Ghana)
Now playing in Azerbaijan, Ghana star Michael Essien was rock-solid in the heart of Chelsea’s midfield for season after season. The defensive midfielder arrived at Stamford Bridge on the back of winning 2005 Ligue 1 Player of the Year for league winners Lyon and expectations were high for the midfielder as Chelsea broke their transfer record to secure his signature. However, the £24.4million that the Blues paid for Essien was most definitely paid back to them through the successes that Essien contributed to in his nine years at the club, winning nine trophies including two Premier League titles.
The 2006 BBC African Footballer of the Year was a leader in the heart of Chelsea’s midfield. His strength, work ethic and footballing intelligence lifted players around him and inspired others. As a box-to-box, tough-tackling midfielder, Essien was crucial to Chelsea’s successes especially during the Mourinho era with the Portuguese manager once saying “He is like my son.”
2) Yaya Touré (Ivory Coast)
When central midfielder Yaya Touré arrived at the Etihad Stadium for £24million from FC Barcelona, expectations were understandably high, especially as his brother, Kolo, had already had an immense impact on the blue side of Manchester. Thankfully for the City faithful, Yaya did not disappoint.
The powerful but pacey playmaker enjoyed eight seasons in the Premier League, winning the league on three occasions. Despite being influential in all three of those successes, the versatile midfielder’s greatest season came in the title winning season of 2013-14 campaign when he scored twenty goals and registered nine assists from central midfield. The former Ivory Coast captain possessed unbelievable technique and quick-feet for a towering midfielder, which always made him a constant attacking threat .
Touré concluded his Citizens career in 2018 and has since played in Greece and China but his sensational seasons in the Premier League is what the four-time African Player of the Year will be always be remembered for. Not just one of the best African footballers in Premier League history but one of the best African players of all time period.
1) Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
Who else could it have possibly been? Didier Drogba is simply the greatest African footballer to have played in the Premier League and Chelsea fans would argue the greatest foreign footballer to play in the top flight as well.
When Drogba arrived from Marseille in 2004 for £24million, the expectation was that the striker would be a typical number nine and score a handful of goals. However, he made a mockery of those assumptions in his first campaign at the club.
During his nine seasons at Stamford Bridge, the former Ivory Coast captain scored 104 goals and registered 54 assists, making him the highest African goalscorer in the league, the highest African assister in the league and also Chelsea’s fourth-highest all-time goalscorer. Defences around Europe were petrified of him. His aerial ability, strength and fierce strike made him nearly impossible to keep out.
But it wasn’t just in and around the box that the four-time league winner was dangerous, the all-time Ivory Coast top scorer was also deadly from set-pieces and would often be found staking his claim from any opportunities outside of the box.
The impact Drogba has had on the Premier League is still clear to see now; the way he held the ball up and used his body to shield the ball was masterful and that matched with his ability to strike the ball with unbelievable power but yet such precision makes him worthy of the top spot in our list of the best African footballers in Premier League history.
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