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The 50 Greatest African Players of All Time

Ed DoveContributor IIIJanuary 13, 2017

The 50 Greatest African Players of All Time

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    This article profiles the 50 greatest African players in history.

    In compiling into this list I have considered players from the last 100 years, both those who represented African nations in the international arena and those who didn’t, as well as those who played in Europe and those who didn’t.

    Cutting down an original shortlist that ran to almost 200 players was not easy, but considering each player’s career by breaking down their individual honours, their international honours and their club honours have given me a "way in" and a clear system with which to evaluate decades of wonderful players.

    This approach has therefore promoted players that have achieved a great deal, those at the elite end of the sport—the champions—rather than those with outstanding ability but without the honours to back up their talents.

    Thus, the successful Nigerian team of the early- to mid-1990s, the Cameroon team that emerged in 2000 and the Egyptian side that dominated the last decade of competition are all very strongly represented.

    However, some wonderful African talents have missed out altogether—a handful of key names are considered on the following slide.

The Chaps That Missed out

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    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    The following players are almost all regular features on equivalent lists of the greatest African players of all time, but for the following reasons haven't made my selection.

     

    Larbi Ben Barek

    A sublime talent who would deserve a place right at the pinnacle of this list, but the Black Pearl represented France and never his native Morocco. Considering him would have opened the door to players such as Marcel Desailly, Basile Boli, Claude Makelele and Patrick Vieira.

     

    John Obi Mikel

    He has received a lot of criticism throughout his career, but the honours he has racked up at Chelsea, as well as his talismanic, inspirational contribution to Nigeria’s recent Cup of Nations triumph put him firmly in the running.

    Only a major achievement or two away from confirming his spot among the continent’s finest ever players.

     

    El Hadji Diouf

    The two-time African Footballer of the Year has never managed to build on his promise of the early 2000s. Too much time spent away from the elite level and his failings at Liverpool have resulted in a disappointing career.

     

    Frederic Kanoute

    He was a terrific goal-scorer and the first non-African born player to win the African Footballer of the Year award.

    His great goalscoring record with Mali never translated to continental honours, and he never won a major league or the Champions League to match excellent scoring rates at Sevilla and West Ham. He had to settle for a haul of cup triumphs.

     

    Badou Ezzaki

    A great stopper who represented Morocco during a strong era for North African sides, he should make the top 20 based on aura, but tangible honours are scant.

    He enjoyed outstanding seasons in La Liga for Mallorca, rather than one of the division's truly top teams.

     

    Kalusha Bwalya

    It pained my heart to leave this genuine icon out of the list. A one-time African Footballer of the Year and an elite player with PSV in Holland, arriving only after the club’s European Cup triumph of 1988.

    His stunning solo destruction of Italy at the 1988 Olympics was the highlight of his Zambia career. It would surely have all been so different had the Chipolopolo not been devastated by the tragic plane crash of 1993.

     

    Lakhdar Belloumi

    Considered to be the greatest Algerian player of all time, his nation’s most-capped player and their cultural cornerstone during the 80s has a trophy cabinet—both at international and club level—that is remarkably sparse.

     

    Godfrey Chitalu

    Scorer of glorious goals and a five-time Zambian footballer of the year, the temperamental forward won precious little with the Zambian national side or club sides Kitwe United and Kabwe Warriors.

     

    Francois Omam-Biyik and Papa Bouba Diop

    Responsible for iconic and almost identical World Cup goals, moments and victories, neither man ever won a great deal at club level. Omam-Biyik did win an African Cup of Nations title with Cameroon.

     

    Asamoah Gyan

    A step away from the genuinely elite end of club competition and persistent failings at a continental one with Ghana has affected Gyan’s incredibly promising career.

50. Mustapha Hadji

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Individual

    Hadji was an agile, innovative, imaginative attacking midfielder who excelled with the ball at his feet and a defence ahead of him. He was named African Footballer of the Year in 1998—the only non-West African to win the award in over two decades.

     

    International Honours

    He qualified for two World Cups with the Moroccan side and impressed at France in 1998. His showing against Norway remains one of the finest performances by an African player on the global stage.

    The Atlas Lions never quite flourished in continental competition during this time though and Hadji never won the African Nations Cup.

     

    Club Honours

    A stop-start club career saw him spend time in Germany, Spain, Portugal and even Luxembourg.

    Hadji was remembered fondly for his time in England with Coventry City, but was powerless to prevent the Sky Blues from relegation in 2001.

    He won the FA Cup with Aston Villa, the Portuguese Cup with Sporting and Ligue 2 with Nancy.

49. Marc-Vivien Foe

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    Individual

    The cornerstone of the Cameroonian side that so dazzled at the turn of the millennium, the defensive midfielder’s life was cut short during the Confederations Cup as he suffered heart failure.

     

    International Honours

    Foe won two continental crowns with Cameroon—in 2000 and 2002—and also represented the side at the 1994 and 2002 World Cups. He would have been present in 1998 as well, but missed the tournament due to injury.

     

    Club Honours

    A French league champion with both Lens and Lyon, he also won a couple of French League Cups and a Cameroonian Cup with Canon Yaounde.

48. Finidi George

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    Individual

    Named by the International Federation of Football History and as the 10th-best African player of the last century, George was a sinuous winger who, at least during the early part of his career, was a direct and menacing threat from the flanks.

    Considered among the finest wingers in the world during the early 90s…but not so much during his failed stint in England with Ipswich.

     

    International Honours

    George represented Nigeria at the 1994 and 1998 World Cups and was also part of the Super Eagles’ irrepressible 1994 AFCON-winning side.

    He made a subsequent three continental semi-finals with Nigeria.

     

    Club Honours

    George was finely furnished with honours at Ajax where, alongside countryman Kanu, he won the Champions League in 1995 and lost a final in 1996. Also picked up three Dutch League titles, a UEFA Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and two Dutch Supercups.

47. Laurent Pokou

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    ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images

    Individual

    Second-place African Footballer of the Year in 1970 and third-place three years later, Pokou was a big-game player and is considered one of the continent’s finest forwards. An excellent dribbler and a terrifically efficient finisher.

    Pele once identified Pokou as his successor. Pele.

     

    International Honours

    I would argue that only Rashidi Yekini and Roger Milla have made an individual impact at the Cup of Nations comparable to that of Pokou. The Ivorian was top scorer twice—in 1968 and 1970—and was also the Player of the Tournament in the latter competition.

     

    Club Honours

    He forged a fine career in France during the 1970s, having won almost all there was to win in the Cote d’Ivoire with ASEC Abidjan. His time at Nancy was heavily affected by injury, but before that he managed 44 goals in 63 outings with Rennes.

     

46. Kolo Toure

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    Individual

    Another of the Cote d’Ivoire’s famed Golden Generation, the elder Toure is an athletic, imposing centre-back who has had his fair share of controversy and mishap.

     

    International Honours

    Toure has suffered the misfortune of his countrymen as the recent incarnation of the Elephants have so often stumbled at the business end of the Cup of Nations. He has represented his nation at two World Cups.

     

    Club Honours

    Having enjoyed Premier League life with Arsenal, Manchester City and now Liverpool, Kolo Toure is no stranger to domestic success. He has won the Premier League twice and the Ivorian championship twice.

    One of Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles, the £150,000 signing from ASEC Mimosas represents one of the Frenchman’s finest acquisitions.

45. Segun Odegbami

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    http://www.naijasmostincredible.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/segun-odegbami-greatest-nigerian-footballer-ever-naijasmostincredible.com_.jpg

    Individual

    "Mathematical" made the podium for African Footballer of the Year in both 1977 and 1980 without ever having won the big one.

    Odegbami was recognised by IFFHS as the joint-19th best African player of the last century.

     

    International Honours

    Odegbami guided Nigeria to their maiden African title, on home soil, in 1980. He was twice top scorer in the Cup of Nations, in 1978 and 1980, and remains Nigeria’s second-highest scorer of all time, behind only the peerless Rashidi Yekini.

     

    Club Honours

    He spent his whole career at Ibadan side Shooting Stars, picking up numerous Nigerian leagues and domestic trophies in the process. The highlight was perhaps the African Cup Winners Cup of 1976—the first triumph by a Nigerian side in a continental competition.

44. Noureddine Naybet

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    Individual

    Surely one of the finest—and certainly one of the most consistent—defenders Africa has ever produced, Naybet was a stalwart for Morocco and also made a successful transition to European football. He was another great African defender linked with Manchester United.

     

    International Honours

    Naybet represented the Atlas Lions in two World Cups, but, like Mustapha Hadji, remained unfulfilled at the Cup of Nations.

     

    Club Honours

    He won the African Champions League with Wydad Casablanca in 1992, a triumph which earned him a move across the Mediterranean. He won the Spanish championship with Deportivo La Coruna in 2000, before further supplementing his trophy haul with a number of Spanish Cups.

43. Victor Ikpeba

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    Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images
    Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images

    Individual

    Ikpeba was recognised by IFFHS as the joint-34th-best African player of the last century. He was named African Footballer of the Year in 1997 and won the Ebony Shoe as the finest African player in the Belgian league in 1993.

     

    International Honours

    A continental champion with Nigeria in 1994, Ikpeba was also part of the team that won the Olympic gold two years later. He represented Naija at two World Cups.

     

    Club Honours

    A Ligue 1 champion with Monaco in 1997 and a Belgian Cup winner with RFC Liege in 1990, Ikpeba also enjoyed a stint with Borussia Dortmund.

42. Rachid Mekhloufi

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    Individual

    A big-game player and key influence in numerous important clashes, the forward was one of the first (and most visible) African-born players to represent the French national side. He remains the second-highest scorer in the history of AS Saint-Etienne.

     

    International Honours

    Mekhloufi failed to win much with the Desert Lions, with his greatest contribution came as part of the Front de Liberation Nationale side that travelled the world representing their countrymen then under French rule. The FLN team became one of Africa’s most potent symbols of national identity and autonomy.

    He represented France four times, but also played at the 1982 World Cup with Algeria.

     

    Club Honours

    Some of the other North African players often billed as being among the continent’s finest don’t have the pure honours to back up their status. This is not a criticism that can be levelled at Mekhloufi, who excelled in France with Saint-Etienne.

    During his time in L’Hexagone he won Ligue 1 four times and also acquired a clutch of other honours including the French Cup. That victory in 1968 proved to be the last act of a glorious career on the Loire.

41. Rigobert Song

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Individual

    A wild boy earlier in his career, Tonton has gently emerged as the wise old head of Cameroonian football—becoming an African icon in the process.

    Song remains, along with Zinedine Zidane, the only player to be sent off at two World Cups.

     

    International Honours

    A two-time AFCON winner, Song was the tournament’s star man in 2002 as the Indomitable Lions retained their continental crown. He has represented the central African giants at a remarkable four World Cups—the most of any player on this list.

     

    Club Honours

    International success has not been reflected in his club career, which explains his fairly modest standing in this list. Two Super Lig titles at Galatasaray and a handful of domestic cup triumphs in Turkey and France are the sum of his career honours out of Cameroon’s famous green.

     

40. Mahamadou Diarra

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    Individual

    Diarra was a tough-tackling midfielder who, along with Michael Essien, forged the basis of that excellent Lyon side that so often threatened to take the French side to the next level during the middle of the last decade.

     

    International Honours

    The Mali captain guided the team to third place at the Under-20 World Cup in 1999, but has struggled to win anything with Les Eigles over the last decade. The side is already eliminated from the running for next summer’s World Cup.

     

    Club Honours

    Diarra’s place on this list is all about his domestic form last decade. Between 2002 and 2008 he won the league title, be it in France or in Spain (with Real Madrid) every season—six consecutive major titles, not to mention a swathe of domestic cups.

39. Daniel Amokachi

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    Photo by Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images
    Photo by Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images

    Individual

    Amokachi was recognised by IFFHS as the 18th-best African player of the last century. His failings at Everton, where he struggled to muscle his way past Duncan Ferguson and Paul Rideout, should not diminish his standing.

    Twice he came in third place in the African Footballer of the Year Award.

     

    International Honours

    Amokachi played at the World Cups of 1994 and 1998 with Nigeria and was also a key member of the iconic Super Eagles side that triumphed at the AFCON in ’94. He also won a historic Olympic gold in 1996, playing his part in a famous final victory over Argentina.

     

    Club Honours

    Still managed to win the FA Cup at Everton in 1995, having eliminated Tottenham in the semi-final with a terrific brace.

38. Lucas Radebe

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    Individual

    Radebe was an elegant, consistent defender who led by example and enjoyed a storied career in South Africa and Yorkshire.

    Leeds United's Player of the Season in 1998, he could have achieved much more had he moved to Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson came calling in 2000.

     

    International Honours

    Radebe, who was once identified by Nelson Mandela as the great man’s “hero,” was one of the Nation Builders who won the Cup of Nations with South Africa in 1996. He also represented Bafana Bafana at two World Cups in 1998 and 2002.

     

    Club Honours

    He arrived at Leeds in 1994, primarily to provide company for his compatriot Phil Masinga. Little was expected of the Kaizer Chiefs youngster, but he became a stalwart of the side, one of the Premier League’s most established defenders and a Yorkshire legend.

    Radebe never won a major league, but still managed to collect various trophies in South Africa before the adventure began.

37. Tarek Dhiab

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    Individual

    This marvellous Tunisian playmaker was named Footballer of the Year in 1977 and was recognised by IFFHS as the joint 15th-best African player of the last century.

     

    International Honours

    He never managed to guide Tunisia to the AFCON title, but did give the world a glimpse of his (and his compatriots’) talents at the 1978 World Cup.

     

    Club Honours

    Dhiab enjoyed a trophy-laden career with Esperance but retired before the club won their first CAF Champions League.

36. Karim Abdul Razak

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    Individual

    Golden Boy may not be a household name to most of you, but the Ghanaian midfielder with miraculous close control has an outstanding record that places him firmly within my top 50.

    A one-time African Footballer of the Year, he was recognised by IFFHS as the joint 31st-best African player of the last century.

     

    International Honours

    Razak was Player of the Tournament in 1978 as he guided the Black Stars to their third African title.

     

    Club Honours

    Razak enjoyed a stint in the NASL among the glittering stars of the New York Cosmos, sandwiched between time in Ghana with Asante Kotoko and in Egypt with the Arab Contractors.

35. Rashidi Yekini

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    GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages
    GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages

    Individual

    Africa has produced a multitude of players who knew how to find the net with unflinching regularity; however, unlike Godfrey Chitalu and Tony Yeboah for example, Yekini has the honours to back up his tremendous work in front of goal.

    The Bull of Kaduna was once named African Footballer of the Year and has also come in in second and third place in the voting. He was recognised by IFFHS as the 17th-best African player of the last century.

     

    International Honours

    Part of the Nigerian team that conquered Africa in 1994, Yekini also starred at the World Cup in America later that year. He was the top scorer in two continental championships and was the player of the tournament in 1994.

     

    Club Honours

    Yekini played across Africa and in Europe, in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Switzerland, winning an Ivorian title. He was top scorer in the Primeira Liga in 1994—an incredible year for the frontman.

34. Joseph-Antoine Bell

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    Getty Images
    Getty Images

    Individual

    Bell was recognised by IFFHS as Africa’s greatest goalkeeper during the 20th century and was twice runner-up in the African Footballer of the Year award.

     

    International Honours

    Twice champion of Africa, Bell travelled with the Indomitable Lions on three World Cup sojourns.

     

    Club Honours

    Bell won the African Champions League in 1979 as part of an exceptional Union Douala side. He achieved domestic success with Union and Egyptian side Arab Contractors.

    His career in France with Marseille often threatened to deliver excellence, but the side too often fell short as the final hurdle drew near.

33. Kazadi Mwamba

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    Photo by Bride Lane Library/Popperfoto/Getty Images
    Photo by Bride Lane Library/Popperfoto/Getty Images

    Individual

    The only one of the iconic Zaire side of the late 60s and early 70s to make this list, Kazadi was the goalkeeper of the 1974 World Cup that had its reputation so tainted by their failings in which their numbers almost impossible to dispute.

    Once a runner-up in the African Footballer of the Year award, Kazadi was recognised by IFFHS among the finest five African goalkeepers of the last century.

     

    International Honours

    Twice an African champion with Zaire in 1968 and in 1974—the year of the Leopard’s great voyage to the World Cup in West Germany—Mwamba was named Player of the Tournament following the 1968 triumph.

     

    Club Honours

    Mwamba spent his entire career with Lubumbashi giants TP Mazembe, picking up a whole host of domestic and continental honours in the process.

    He is a forgotten great, despite his World Cup failings.

32. Salif Keita

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    JARNOUX Patrick/Paris Match via Getty Images
    JARNOUX Patrick/Paris Match via Getty Images

    Individual

    Named the African Footballer of the Year in 1970, Keita also received the FIFA Order of Merit in 1996. A lethal striker in his day, he enjoyed a stunning scoring record in France with Saint-Etienne.

     

    International Honours

    Keita guided Mali to the final of the 1972 Cup of Nations but was helpless as the Republic of Congo beat Les Aigles 3-2 in a classic final.

     

    Club Honours

    A relentless winner as a youngster in Mali, he transferred his desire and success to Europe. He won a trio of consecutive Ligue 1 titles on the Loire at the end of the 60s and also enjoyed various triumphs in the French Cup.

    Keita picked up a Portuguese Cup with Sporting over a decade after leaving Africa.

31. Pat Mboma

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    Ben Radford/Getty Images

    Individual

    Mboma was an incredibly powerful individual with terrific technical prowess to match. He was African Footballer of the Year and BBC African Footballer of the Year in 2000.

     

    International Honours

    An incredibly consistent goalscorer for the Indomitable Lions, his numbers match up against almost all the other forwards on this list.

    Mboma won the honours to go with his goals as well, as the figurehead in the great Cameroon side of the early 2000s. Alongside that excellent collection of stars, he won two AFCON titles, an Olympic gold and featured at two World Cups.

    One of only six players to be top scorer at two different Cup of Nations tournaments.

     

    Club Honours

    His successes with Cameroon were, unfortunately, not matched throughout a peripatetic club career. A clutch of French cups are scant reward for such a sizzling talent.

30. Benni McCarthy

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    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

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    Stu Forster/Allsport
    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

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    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

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    Osun Defender.org / http://www.osundefender.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/amuneke-emma-dstv-300.jpg

    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

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    Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images
    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

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    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

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    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

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    Chris Jackson/Getty Images

    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

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    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

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    The Daily Mail / http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/01/12/article-1242632-07D4890B000005DC-726_308x311.jpg
    The Daily Mail / http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/01/12/article-1242632-07D4890B000005DC-726_308x311.jpg

    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

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    Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

    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

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    Soccer Laduma / http://img2.soccerladuma.co.za/files/2012/10/dc5a504ad30073164b7ab82be31f9a13.jpg
    Soccer Laduma / http://img2.soccerladuma.co.za/files/2012/10/dc5a504ad30073164b7ab82be31f9a13.jpg

    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

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    Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

    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

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    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    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

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    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

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    Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images
    Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images

    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

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    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

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    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

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    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

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    Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

    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

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    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

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    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

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    Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

    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

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    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    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

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    Individual

    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

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    ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images
    ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

    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

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    Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images
    Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images

    Individual

    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

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Individual

    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

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    Ben Radford/Getty Images

    Individual

    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

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Individual

    A 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.

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