A Comparative Look at Africa’s Legends

By June 27, 2022 Articles

It’s always a good time. But with the World Cup upon us, and now 4/5 months away, we thought what better time to have a COMPARTIVE look at Africa’s legendary players. North, south, east and west of the continent. As with range of sides going from our great continent – Cameroon, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana and Senegal.

Despite most of the concentration labelled on big European names, the African continent has also given the world football gurus, some of whom have dazzled football lovers with their ability. Filled with a depth of naked creativity, these players have produced magic: that unique mouth-watering sensation for their respective clubs and country. With the Qatar 2022 FIFA

World Cup just around the corner, we revisit the ten greatest African football players of all time.


Football creates men that sacrifice behind the scenes for the glory of the game. No doubt atop of this ranking is an unfamiliar name, a perfect blend of determination and results, popularly known as the “relentless Mustapha”. He rose to prominence as a player for Portuguese outfit FC Porto in the 1980s, finishing the century as the outright best. During his six years with the club, he won nine major trophies and scored more than 150 goals, including a decisive one in the 1987 European Cup final that helped his side triumph. His career success peaked in Algeria’s 2–1 World Cup victory over Germany in 1982 after scoring the 53rd-minute goal to give Algeria its very first participation in the World Cup.


Known as the “Dribbling Magician” or the “Pele” of Africa when it comes to pure talent and trickery, Abedi too another African football icon. Pele could dribble past an entire team. His senior international debut came at just 16-years old. Playing 4 of Ghana’s 5 games and netting 3 goals during the 1992 AFCON, his forward’s efficiency in front of the goal earned him player of the tournament.


A versatile midfielder, Keita is another all-time great. He operated as both a central and defensive forward, enticing fans with his tactical performance, unmatched by any other African midfielder. Keita’s consistently personalized high tackles, which began at the age of 18, also earned him three La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, three Supercopa de Espanas, two Champions League, two UEFA Super Cups, and two Club World Cup titles while he played for Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side. On the African continent, he represented Mali in seven Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, winning 102 caps.


The Pharaohs of Egypt are undoubtedly the most successful soccer side on the African continent, having worn its biggest football jamboree 7 good times. Behind this success is a series of generations, the longest and most rewarding of which has been under El-Hadary, widely considered a national hero. Besides being arguably the most talented African goalkeeper, he, like no other, has won the African Cup of Nations a record four times, kept a clean sheet in three AFCON finals, and won eight League titles with Al-Merreikh and Al-Ahly.

6. Jay-Jay Okocha (NIGERIA)

Okocha is a legend who captured the imagination of many at home and abroad! This man won almost everything. At the 1994 AFCON, Okocha played 4 of his nation’s 5 games as Nigeria lifted their 2nd ever continental trophy, Okocha proved football in practice by using the pitch as his rhetoric lab, though he had no goal in the edition. Many believed he had a strong sense of fighting for his team, and it is even rumored he would give a pass even when he could net the goal. Overall, the legend later won the African Cup of Nations, two BBC African Player of the Year awards, and an Olympic Gold medal.


As well as being an absolute legend of the game, the player with the most African Player of the Year award: four honors to his name, most people also remember Toure as the dark invader who could star anywhere on the pitch. He was a complete midfielder who had a decent career while at Barca and could play equally well as a defensive midfielder, left-back, or attacking mid. This quick-thinking spirit continued until he joined Man City where he was transformed into the best dynamic midfielder English football has ever seen. Plus, his strength, vision, and goal-scoring instinct featured him again as a two-time winner of the BBC African player of the year award, including being named in the Professional Footballers’ Association Team of the Year on two occasions in 2012 and 2014.


This “dancing” soccer legend was technically gifted much that he was named by the Confederation of African Football the best African player of the past golden Jubilee. A midfielder like no other, Milla netted 438 goals in 794 matches in his professional career, won the African Player of the Year award twice, and also won the continent’s Nations cup twice for his country. He is also remembered as the man who lit up Italia 90, helping the first African squad to reach the quarter-finals in a World cup tournament. But it wasn’t just his goals that had everybody talking, it was also his memorable dance celebration, a reason why many argue he’s the greatest African Player to ever lived; and technically, they’ll be correct. Amazing at tackling & interceptions, his goal in US 94 made him the oldest goal scorer in World cup history.


With a career record of scoring 10 goals in 10 finals and winning 10 trophies at the club level, One of Premier League’s greatest strikers ever, Drogba, is certainly the “ultimate big-game player”. At his best, he was a target man with a knack for scoring game-changing goals. Don’t get it wrong, but yeah, Didier was cool. Named African Player of the Year twice, the Ivorian and Chelsea legend was a predator who netted over 300 goals in his professional career and won four Premier League titles, four FA Cup, three English League Cups, two Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League title, one Premier League golden boot and two Premier League team of the year twice.


Weah is the African king who never won the UEFA Champions League, yet reached the very pinnacle of the game, being the only African Footballer to win the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995. He was also named African Footballer of the Year three times in 1989, 1994, and 1995, and helped PSG grace France’s top flight in 1994 before winning two Serie A crowns with AC Milan while scoring a total of 200+ goals in his professional career. This made Weah a trailblazer in every sense of the word. Today, he is the president of Liberia and a hero.


Eto’o, with a record that no African footballer has broken, stands as our number one bet. Alongside, Roger Millar, his intrinsic ability and capabilities on the pitch has also given Cameroon a respected place in the world of football. He won four African Player of the Year awards, in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2010, retained the Golden Boot outright, won the Olympic Gold in 2000, won the UCL with Inter Milan in 2010, and became both UEFA and FIFA Teams of the Year twice and was named third in the 2005 FIFA World’s best player award League finals. For Barcelona alone, he had 130 goals, two UEFA Champions League titles – scoring in both finals, including getting the Man of the Match in 2006. Furthermore, Eto’o retired as the all-time top scorer for Cameroon, for RCD Mallorca, and in the Africa Cup of Nations, having scored 18 goals across six editions, including helping Cameroon seal the AFCON title on two other occasions.

That’s our compartive list of African legends. If you feel any different as to the list, let us know. Do you see any breakthroughs into the list in the next 5-10 years?

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Written by James Orien


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