Ranking the Top 5 Africans to Have Played for Everton
Everton may not have the same kind of tradition of featuring African players as some of the other sides in the Premier League, but nonetheless, the Toffees’ history includes several key contributions by the continent’s players.
This article ranks the top five African players to have featured for the club.
In compiling this list, we have considered longevity, impact, popularity and contribution.
The club’s current trophy drought (the Blues have not won a senior offer since the Charity Shield in 1995) means that only one of the African players named here has picked up silverware with the club.
This article only considers and ranks players based on their performances for Everton. Therefore, the likes of Alex Nyarko and Ibrahima Bakayoko have not made the list—while these two enjoyed success elsewhere, their stints at Goodison Park will not be remembered too fondly!
As to be expected, perhaps, there is a distinctly Nigerian flavour to this feature.
The quotes in this piece were gathered in person by Ed Dove.
5. Daniel Amokachi
The Premier League never quite saw the best of Daniel Amokachi. During his time with Everton he largely failed to dislodge the established pairing of Paul Rideout and Duncan Ferguson and, unfortunately, the goals were fairly few and far between.
When he was good, however, he was very good, and never more so than in the 1995 FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur.
He entered as a substitute, replacing the injured Rideout, and went on to score two goals to book the Toffees’ place in the final. Everton would go on to beat Manchester United 1-0, with Amokachi again making a cameo from the bench.
He left for Besiktas in 1996 having scored only 12 goals in 54 matches for the club.
He is currently the Nigeria assistant manager and accompanied Stephen Keshi and the Super Eagles to this summer’s World Cup.
4. Victor Anichebe
Big Victor Anichebe never quite got the rub of the green at Everton.
He holds the record for being the most-used substitute in the club’s history, a stat that is perhaps quite telling when it comes to understanding why Anichebe never quite made the impact that many had hoped he would.
The key reason, however, is injuries. The setbacks were a relentless part of the forward’s Toffees career at times.
His best season was perhaps the 2007/08 campaign, when he scored four times in the UEFA Cup, bagged for the Blues on the opening day of the season and was named the Young Player of the Season by fans.
He would also make his Nigeria debut and go on to claim a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics.
Despite the pace and the power, Anichebe’s qualities never quite translated into the goals the Everton fans hoped for.
Former Blues player and fellow Nigerian Hope Akpan once described his former teammate to me as a striker who “had the lot” but, for one reason or another, the versatile forward only managed 26 goals in 168 games for the club.
He was sold to West Bromwich Albion for £6 million in August 2013.
Like so many other strikers during the David Moyes era, Yakubu Aiyegbeni exploded onto the scene, dazzled for a time and then faded into irrelevance. The same could be said for James Beattie, Andrew Johnson or Nikica Jelavic.
Yakubu was arguably a cut above those three, however, as demonstrated by his 21-goal haul over the 2007-08 season. Tellingly, this was the first time since Peter Beardsley in 1992 that an Everton player had scored more than 20 goals in a season.
However, Yakubu would only net a further ten goals during his next two-and-a-half seasons at the club.
His relationship with David Moyes steadily deteriorated, a result of returning home late from the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, while injuries also affected his progress. His 2008-09 campaign, for example, ended in late November after a ruptured Achilles ruled him out for the season.
He is currently playing at Al-Rayyan in the Qatar Stars League.
2. Steven Pienaar
After spending an initial season on loan, Steven Pienaar moved to Everton permanently in the summer of 2008. He had previously been at Ajax Amsterdam and Borussia Dortmund and arrived at Goodison Park with a fine pedigree.
Over the coming seasons, Pienaar’s creativity and versatility would prove to be vital. He proved to be particularly effective in combination with Leighton Baines (who arrived at the same time as Pienaar) down the left flank, and the two would share, at times, a telepathic relationship.
He was voted Player of the Season by fans at the end of the 2009-10 season, but having turned down a new deal, he moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2011.
For one reason or another, things never quite worked out at White Hart Lane, and a year after leaving he was back on Merseyside, first on loan, then on a permanent deal.
He signed a four-year contract in July 2012 and, despite struggling with enjoy, retains a special spot in the hearts of Everton fans.
1. Joseph Yobo
When Joseph Yobo arrived at Everton in the summer of 2002, he was one of the finest young African defenders in the world game.
He started in all three of Nigeria’s games at the 2002 World Cup, demonstrating his versatility by playing at centre-back against England, right-back against Sweden and in central midfield against Argentina.
I was at Goodison Park in August 2002 when the defender made his home league debut against Birmingham City. Playing alongside the likes of Alan Stubbs, David Weir and Alessandro Pistone, Yobo shone, and right from the word go demonstrated his pace, composure on the ball and aerial ability.
He would go on to play 259 times for the club (more than any other African player) and also scored 10 goals in the process.
He grew to be an influential figure at the club (spending five years as vice-captain) before the Sylvain Distin/Phil Jagielka partnership (as well as a succession of injuries) spelled the end of his tenure at the club.
He spent the last two years of his contract on loan at Fenerbahce, before departing for good in the summer of 2012—10 years after first arriving on Merseyside.
He is also Nigeria’s all-time record cap holder.