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5 greatest African footballers of all time

Samuel Eto'o in action for Cameroon at the 2010 FIFA World Cup
Samuel Eto'o in action for Cameroon at the 2010 FIFA World Cup
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Gregory Airende

The Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Cameroon over the past two weeks has been nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster for football fans around the world.

Africa has produced some of the world's best footballers who have conquered the world of football and etched their names in the history books.

On that basis, in the spirit of the AFCON tournament, let's take a look at the five greatest African footballers of all time:


#5 Jay Jay Okocha

Okocha during a match against Senegal at the AFCON
Okocha during a match against Senegal at the AFCON

Jay Jay Okocha, whose real name is Augustine Azuka Okocha, was well known for his creativity and dribbling skills. The Nigerian was a member of the Super Eagles squad that won the AFCON and Olympic Gold in 1994 and 1996 respectively. He had spells at Paris Saint Germain, Bolton Wanderers, Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce, Hull City and Qatar SC.

So good they named him twice...๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Jay-Jay Okocha ๐Ÿ˜Ž@IAmOkocha | @PSG_English | #UCL https://t.co/a83GGWukr7

Although he did not have a successful club career, he remained a mentor to many players, notably the great Ronaldinho during his stint at PSG. Okocha was a fan favorite at Bolton Wanderers in his debut season and was later given the captain's arm band. Okocha won the BBC African Footballer of the Year award for two straight years in 2003 and 2004.


#4 Nwankwo Kanu

Kanu Nwankwo (left) in action against South Korea: Group B - 2010 FIFA World Cup
Kanu Nwankwo (left) in action against South Korea: Group B - 2010 FIFA World Cup

The 6-foot-6-inch figure, nicknamed Papilo, is among the list of prestigious players to win the UEFA Champions League, Premier League, UEFA Europa League, FA Cup and Olympic Gold.

Kanu captained the Super Eagles for 16 years, dating from 1994 to 2010. He played a monumental role in Nigeria's Olympic victory in 1996, scoring two late goals against Brazil in the semifinals that sent them to the finals, which they eventually won.

On this day in 1999: Arsenal signed Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu from Inter Milan. #afc https://t.co/zz647nK5iK

He had spells in top tier European Leagues with successful clubs like Inter Milan, Ajax, Arsenal, West Brom and Portsmouth. Kanu is a member of the formidable Arsenal squad 'The Invicibles', which went unbeaten in the 2003-04 season to win the Premier League

Kanu scored the winning goal that earned Portsmouth the FA Cup title. Despite winning the African Footballer of the Year in 1996 and 1999 and BBC African Footballer of the Year in 1997 and 1999, Kanu never won the AFCON.

#3 Didier Drogba

Drogba reacts during the match against Greece : Group C - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Drogba reacts during the match against Greece : Group C - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Didier Drogba is definitely a name that cannot be left aside when making a list of the greatest African footballers.The Ivorian became the first African to score 100 English Premier League goals while donning the blue colors of Chelsea. He is also the highest goal scoring African player in the history of the UEFA Champions League.

He was involved in a pivotal role that helped Chelsea win their first Premier League title in his debut season. Drogba's late equalizer against Bayern Munich in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final led to a penalty shoot-out which Chelsea won.

Iconic Didier Drogba celebrations from 2012 final ๐Ÿ˜€#UCL https://t.co/U5wmSxZ0hi

Drogba never won an international title with the Ivorian national team, commonly known as the Les Elephantes, but he led them to their first World Cup tournament in 2006. They were runners-up in the 2006 and 2012 edition of the AFCON tournament. Drogba was named African Footballer of the Year in 2006 and 2009.


#2 Samuel Eto'o

Eto'o during an AFCON match vs Gabon
Eto'o during an AFCON match vs Gabon

Samuel Eto'o is hands down one of the greatest players of his generation. Eto'o has had a prosperous career at both club and country level. He has three UEFA Champions League titles โ€“ two with Barcelona, one with Inter Milan โ€“ and a FIFA World Club Cup, among others. He is one of the few players to win the UEFA Champions League with two different teams consecutively.

No player in Africa Cup of Nations history has scored more goals than Samuel Eto'o ๐Ÿฆ#TeamCameroon https://t.co/LsmZupm9nm

Eto'o won two AFCON titles and an Olympic Gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics with the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. He is also the all-time top goal scorer in AFCON history and a four-time African Footballer of the Year (2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010)

The Cameroonian's goal scoring prowess made him influential at clubs he played for like Mallorca, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Anzi Makhachkala, Chelsea, Everton and Sampdoria. Eto'o was also a great utility player. He once played as a wing-back and an attacking midfielder, despite being a centre-forward.


#1 George Weah

George Weah at AC Milan
George Weah at AC Milan

Unlike the rest, George Weah, popularly known as King George, may not have won tons of trophies but his individual accolades are something every player could wish for. The most noteworthy accolade being the Ballon d'Or, which till date makes him the only African to receive the honor.

He also won the FIFA World Player of the Year, African Footballer of the Year, BBC African Footballer of the Year and became UEFA Champions League top scorer in the same year (1995) he was awarded the Ballon d'Or. George Weah won two Serie A titles with AC Milan, a Ligue One title with Paris Saint Germain and an FA Cup with Chelsea.

George Weah helped his country Liberia qualify for two editions of AFCON (1996 and 2002), their only appearances ever in the history of the tournament till date. He is among the few Ballon d'Or winners who have never played at the World Cup. He served as an inspiration to many players, including Thierry Henry. George Weah is the current president of Liberia.

Edited by Manas Mitul
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