MOTD Top 10: African players in Premier League

MOTD Top 10: African players in Premier League

by Emily Smith
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Do Didier Drogba, Mohamed Salah or Riyad Mahrez make your top three?The Match of the Day Top 10 podcast is back… nearly.

Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Micah Richards will return in the spring with their latest series of the BBC Sounds hit, ranking their top 10s from an assortment of topics across the Premier League era.

But we’re giving you an early chance to get involved, by letting you pick your top three for each of the upcoming shows, and the trio will get to see your choices before they record the pod.

Today, the subject is: Premier League’s best African players.

MOTD Top 10: Premier League set-piece takersMOTD Top 10: Premier League derbiesMOTD Top 10: Rest of the world players in the Premier LeagueMOTD Top 10: Premier League’s best number 10s”It was so difficult in the end to get the selection down to 10 names, as it is with most of these lists,” Lineker told BBC Sport.

“There have been some brilliant African players in the Premier League down the years, including some of the biggest stars we watch today.

“There were not many African footballers in England when I was a player, but they have become more and more of an influence on our game, and in a hugely positive way.

“There are so many huge talents who have been unbelievably successful in our game and, importantly, have also helped to prove that harmonious diversity within dressing rooms is very much a part of English football.

“Football often gets a lot of stick for racist issues but the game itself, inside dressing rooms and within clubs, is a shining example of how different people from different parts of the world can integrate and get on.”

1. Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo)Emmanuel Adebayor played for four Premier League teams – Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Crystal Palace – and scored an impressive 97 times in 242 games.

He was named BBC’s African Footballer of the Year in 2007, but never won a trophy in English football, losing in the 2007 League Cup final with the Gunners and being an unused substitute for Palace in the 2016 FA Cup final.

2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)Although currently out of favour at Arsenal after being stripped of the captaincy following a disciplinary issue, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will always be remembered for his two goals in the 2020 FA Cup final, which gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory at Wembley.

He joined the Gunners at the end of the January transfer window in 2018 and made an instant impact, scoring 10 goals in 14 appearances in the rest of that campaign. He won the Golden Boot for being the Premier League’s top scorer the following season with 22 goals – a figure he would then match in 2019-20 and to date he has a fine record of 68 goals from 128 Premier League appearances.

3. Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)Ivorian Dider Drogba forever has a place in Chelsea’s history as he scored in the 2012 Champions League final and then converted the decisive penalty to give them a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Bayern Munich.

He joined Chelsea for £24m from Marseille in 2004 and his goals also took the Blues to three Premier League titles, four FA Cup wins and two League Cup successes before he headed to China.

But after a spell there and then in Turkey, he returned to Stamford Bridge in 2014 and helped them win yet another Premier League (his fourth) and another League Cup (his third). His total of 104 Premier League goals was the most by an African player until Mohamed Salah beat the record earlier this season.

4. Michael Essien (Ghana)Defensive midfielder Michael Essien joined Chelsea for a then club record £24.4m in 2005, but he proved to be a pivotal part of a very successful spell for his team.

He played for Chelsea in eight seasons, helping them win the Premier League twice, the Champions League once, the FA Cup four times and the League Cup once.

He was named the BBC’s African Footballer of the Year in 2006 and featured 59 times for his country, helping them finish third at the Africa Cup of Nations on two occasions.

5. Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria)Forward Nwankwo Kanu was a Champions League winner with Ajax in 1995 aged only 19 before winning the Olympic Games with Nigeria the following year.

He was signed by Arsenal in January 1999 and in six seasons with the Gunners helped them win the Premier League on two occasions, including in 2003-04 when he was part of the ‘Invincibles’ squad that went through an entire league season unbeaten.

Spells at West Brom and Portsmouth followed and Kanu wrote his name into Pompey folklore by scoring the winning goal in the 2008 FA Cup final – the third time he had won the trophy in his career.

6. Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)In the history of English football, Riyad Mahrez has to be one of the best value for money signings after he joined Leicester City for only £450,000 from French side Le Havre in January 2014.

The Foxes won promotion from the Championship and then in 2015-16 Mahrez helped them complete the incredible achievement of winning the Premier League, despite being written off as 5,000-1 no-hopers at the start of the season – with Mahrez named PFA Players’ Player of the Year.

A move to Manchester City followed a couple of seasons later and Mahrez, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with Algeria in 2019, has already added another two Premier League titles to his trophy cabinet, along with one FA Cup and three League Cups.

7. Sadio Mane (Senegal)Sadio Mane moved to the Premier League in 2014, moving from Red Bull Salzburg in Austria to Southampton and he has scored at least 10 league goals in every completed season since then.

But his career really took off with a move to Liverpool two years later. In 2017-18 he helped them reach the Champions League final, a season later they became European champions and a year after that he had a Premier League winners medal.

He played in the Africa Cup of Nations final with Senegal in 2019 and also finished fourth in the prestigious Ballon d’Or award – to find the world player of the year – in the same year.

8. Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria)So good they named him twice. Bolton landed a transfer coup in 2002 when they signed skilful, flamboyant playmaker Jay-Jay Okocha on a free transfer after he had left Paris St-Germain.

He came close to winning some silverware too, but Bolton, with Okocha as captain, lost in the 2004 League Cup final to Middlesbrough.

Okocha was twice named BBC’s African Footballer of the Year and a fine international career saw him play 73 times for Nigeria, winning an Olympic Games gold medal as well as the Africa Cup of Nations.

9. Mohamed Salah (Egypt)Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah first moved to the Premier League in 2014 and had an unsuccessful spell at Chelsea. But, following a few years in Italy, he went to Liverpool in 2017 and has been unstoppable ever since.

He has twice won the Golden Boot for being the top goalscorer, has been named Player of the Season once and, earlier this campaign, broke Drogba’s record for most Premier League goals by an African player.

At Liverpool, he has helped them win the Premier League and Champions League and has twice been named as BBC’s African Footballer of the Year.

10. Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)A Champions League winner with Barcelona, energetic midfielder Yaya Toure joined Manchester City in 2010 and will be regarded as one the club’s best ever players.

He scored the winning goal in the 2011 FA Cup final for City, who ended their 35-year wait for a major trophy, before he won the first of three Premier League titles two years later.

A two-time winner of the BBC African Footballer of the Year award, Toure played 101 times for Ivory Coast and helped them win the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015.

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