Africa has produced some of the best footballers the game has ever seen, and there has always been an unending debate on who the best players from the continent are.
Hence, it isn’t straightforward to pick out the best 10 African football players of all time as so many factors have to be put into consideration like individual skills, awards, trophies, generation, impacts at club sides, legacies etc.
In this list, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you the 10 greatest African football players ever; names that the world can never forget.
This list of the top 10 African football legends is in no particular order.
1. Samuel Eto’o Fils
First on our list is Samuel Eto’o, who was one of the best strikers in the world during his prime.
He turned out for the likes of Real Madrid, Mallorca, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea.
During his illustrious career, he won various titles like La Liga, Copa del Rey, Serie A, Coppa Italia, FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Champions League (which he won 3 times, scoring in two finals).
Eto’o achieved a lot on the international stage with Cameroon, winning the Olympic Men’s Football Gold medal in 2000, the AFCON (twice) and currently the all-time highest goal scorer at the AFCON.
He came third at the 2005 FIFA Men’s Best Player award and won the African Footballer of the Year, a joint-record four times.
2. Didier Drogba
Known as the “ultimate big-game player”, Drogba scored 10 goals in 10 cup finals.
He was most notable for his time at Chelsea, where he won the English Premier League 4 times, FA Cup 4 times, League Cup 3 times and the UEFA Champions League.
His greatest moment with Chelsea was when he scored the winning penalty in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, securing the Blues’ first ever UEFA Champions League title in their history.
Didier Drogba represented Ivory Coast from 2002 to 2014, serving as captain from 2006 onward.
He remains Ivory Coast’s all-time leading goalscorer with 65 goals in 105 appearances.
Drogba helped lead Ivory Coast to their first ever FIFA World Cup appearance in 2006, where he also scored their first ever World Cup goal.
He captained the team at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups as well. Drogba reached the Africa Cup of Nations final with Ivory Coast in 2006 and 2012, but they lost both times on penalties.
He was instrumental in Ivory Coast’s golden generation, guiding them to new heights
Drogba won the African Footballer of the Year twice.
3. Yaya Touré
Regarded as one of the best box-to-box midfielders of his generation, Yaya Toure played for the likes of Olympiacos, Monaco, Barcelona and most notably Manchester City.
He won the La Liga, Copa del Rey, FIFA Club World Cup, Premier League, FA Cup and the League Cup.
He was a member of the historic Barcelona side that astonishingly won six trophies in a single calendar year in 2009.
Yaya Touré captained Ivory Coast to AFCON glory in 2015 and won the African Footballer of the Year four times (joint-record alongside Eto’o).
The Ivorian legend is also one of the best players who changed positions.
4. Austin Jay-jay Okocha
One of the most skillful footballers in history, Okocha was famous for his trickery and confidence with the ball.
He possesses amazing technique, creativity, flair, dribbling and shooting.
Okocha represented the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce, PSG, Hull City and Bolton Wanderers in his career.
He was part of the Nigerian golden generation team that won the AFCON in 1994 and the Olympic Men’s Football gold medal in 1996.
Jay Jay Okocha was undoubtedly one of the best dribblers in football history.
He is considered by some as the best Nigerian footballer ever.
5. George Weah
A very prolific striker during his days, Weah played for the likes of Monaco, PSG, AC Milan, Manchester City and Marseille.
His playing style was emulated by strikers of later generations.
In 1995, Weah won the FIFA Men’s Best Player of the Year and the Balon D’or, becoming the first and only African player to do so up to date.
He won the African Footballer of the Year three times and was named the African Player of the Century in 1996.
After his retirement, George Weah went into politics and, in 2017, got elected as the President of his country, Liberia. He is one of the best footballers to never play at the World Cup.
6. Roger Milla
Roger Milla was famously renowned for his exploits with Cameroon at the international level.
At the age of 38, Milla scored 4 goals at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, becoming the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history.
But he wasn’t done, though, as he came back four years later to break his own record when at the grand age of 42, he scored against Russia at the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
He was also known for his trademark goal celebration, in which he would run to the corner flag and perform a funny dance.
Roger Milla won the AFCON with Cameroon twice and also won the African Footballer of the Year twice. He is one of the best footballers who never played for a big club.
In 2007, CAF named him as the Best African Player of the previous 50 years. He is one if the greatest Africans to play at the World Cup.
7. Nwankwo Kanu
Kanu’s style of play is a delight to watch. Despite his tall and slender build, he is very talented, quick and elegant on the ball.
He was known for his nimble footwork, technical skills, dribbling ability, close control and shooting.
He turned out for clubs like Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth.
Kanu won the Nigerian Premier League, Dutch Eredivise, UEFA Cup (now Europa League), English Premier League (3 times), FA Cup (3 times) and the UEFA Champions League.
He won the African Footballer of the Year twice, and he is arguably the greatest Nigerian player ever.
Another interesting fact about Nwankwo Kanu was the fact he scored most of his goals coming off the bench, making him one of the best super-subs in football history.
8. Rabah Madjer
Many young football fans will not recognise this name as the Algerian legend played from 1975 to 1992.
He is regarded as one of the best Muslim football players of all time.
The striker played for various European clubs but was most famous for his time at FC Porto, where he won 9 trophies.
His greatest moment with Porto was at the 1987 European Cup (now UEFA Champions League) final against Bayern Munich, where he scored and assisted in leading Porto to a famous 2-1 victory.
Madjer won the African Footballer of the Year in 1987 and led Algeria to the AFCON title in 1990.
9. Mohammed Salah
One of the two players on this list who are still playing. Salah is famous for his speed, dribbling and ruthless finishing.
So far, he has represented the likes of Basel, Chelsea, Fiorentina, Roma and (currently) Liverpool in his career.
He has also won the Swiss Super League, English Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Champions League sọ far.
Salah has won the Premier League Golden Boot twice and finished 3rd at the FIFA Men’s Best Player award in 2018. He also holds the record for the most goals in a single Premier League season (32).
On the global stage, Salah finished 3rd for the Best FIFA Men’s Player award in 2018 and 2021. He placed 5th for the prestigious Ballon d’Or prize in 2019 and 2022.
Salah won the 2018 FIFA Puskas Award for scoring the best goal of the year. In 2023 with Liverpool, Salah became the club’s all-time leading Premier League goal scorer and netted his 200th goal, cement
Salah has also won the African Footballer of the Year twice so far. Right now, he is considered among the top wingers in football.
10. Riyad Mahrez
Riyad Mahrez was born in France but chose to represent Algeria at the international level. He made his debut for the Algerian national team in 2014 and went on to play for them at the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well as the Africa Cup of Nations tournaments in 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2023.
He is quick, creative and highly technical. His major traits are his trickery, change of pace, flair, dribbling and shooting.
The Algerian forward came into limelight when he helped Leicester City shock the world by winning the English Premier League title in 2016.
Thereafter, he joined Manchester City and has won the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup titles so far.
Mahrez captained Algeria to AFCON glory in 2019, playing a prominent role in their success.
He won the African Footballer of the Year in 2016.
- Abedi Pele
- Kalusha Bwalya
- Rashidi Yekini
- Asamoah Gyan
- Benni McCarthy
- Michael Essien
- Emmanuel Adebayor
- Sadio Mane
- Stephen Keshi
- Mohammed Aboutrika
- John Mikel Obi.