Friday, September 18, 2020



Five African footballing greats – maybe the greatest!

Five African footballing greats – maybe the greatest!
September 01
18:23 2014

Comparison is odious but like variety – it’s the spice of life.


Samuel Eto’o has just called time on international football with Cameroon. The prolific striker who recently signed a two-year deal with Barclays Premier League side Everton is the most decorated African player. But was he the greatest?

We take a look at five retired players who can also lay claim to that exalted position as Africa best ever player.

Honorary mention: Laurent Poukou, Abdul Razak, Ibrahim Sunday, Theophile Abega, Opokou Nti, Rashidi Yekini, Lakhdar Belloumi, Thomas Nkono, Austin Okocha, and Didier Drogba.


Abedi Ayew Pele

Abedi Pele

It took eight years for Europe, nay the world, to notice the talent of the player once described as ‘the skinny lad with Octopus legs’. Eight years of ‘wilderness’ in Qatar, then later Republic of Benin. But diamond cannot be hidden for long and Abedi Pele showed his virtuosity at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza during a European Club’s Cup quarter-final first leg match between Milan and his club Marseille. The game ended 1-1 and Pele’s was not among the scorers. He was rather the cynosure.


Famous quote

Any time I play for Marseille, I have the feeling I am playing in two or three teams. I play for the team Marseille, all blacks in this world and particularly Africans – Pele, 1993.

National team

73 caps; 33 goals; 1982-1998


Club honours

Prince of Qatar Cup: 1983 with Al-Sadd

UEFA Champions League: 1993 with Marseille

French Ligue 1 Winner: 1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93 with Marseille


Pro-League: 1999-2000 with Al Ain

President’s Cup: 1999 with Al Ain

International honours

African Cup of Nations Winner 1982


West African Nations Cup – SCSA Zone III Winner 1982, 1983, 1984

Individual honours

FIFA 100

“Order of the Volta” (Civil division) – Highest Ghana National award

African Footballer of the Year Winner: 1991, 1992, 1993

FIFA World Player of the Year: 9th 1992, Nomination 1991

African Player of the Century by IFFHS – 3rd

Top 30 African Footballers in the last 50 years (2007) 5th Place

African Footballer of the Year Nominations: 1985, 1986, 1987,1988,1989,1990

Italian Serie A Best Foreign Player Winner: 1995-96

Fifa All-Star Forward: 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1999

1992 African Nations Cup Player of the Tournament: Golden Ball Winner

BBC African Player of the Year Winner: three times

George Oppong Weah

George Weah

When FIFA declared him king of world soccer on January 8, 1996, Weah became the first man on earth to win the African, European and World best player titles all in the same year. The margin of his victory was even more spectacular. Weah got 170 votes against 80 for his Milan teammate Paulo Maldini and 58 for Jurgen Klinsmann. Saying he also won the Italian and Liberian best player awards is a moot point. He’s not called ‘King George I’ for nothing – and why not?

Famous quote

African players have the talent already and what is left is for African countries to provide the facilities to enhance their talents – Weah, 1997.

National team

60 caps; 22 goals; 1987-2007

Club honours

Liberian Premier League: 1985-86 with Mighty Barrolle

Liberian Cup: 1985-86 with Mighty Barrolle

Liberian Premier League: 1986-87 with Invincible Eleven

Coupe de France: 1991 with Monaco

Ligue 1: 1993-94 with Paris Saint-Germain

Coupe de France: 1992-93, 1994-95 with PSG

Coupe de la Ligue: 1995 with PSG

Serie A: 1995-96, 1998-99 with Milan

FA Cup: 1999-2000 with Chelsea

Individual honours

African Footballer of the Year: 1989, 1994, 1995

UEFA Champions League Topscorer: 1994-95

BBC African Footballer of the Year: 1995

Onze d’Or: 1995

Ballon d’Or: 1995

FIFA World Player of the Year: 1995

ESM Team of the Year: 1995-96

Onzes d’Argent: 1996

FIFA Fair Play Award: 1996

African Player of the Century: 1996

FIFA World Player of the Year (Silver award): 1996

FIFA 100

Nwankwo Kanu

Kanu Nwankwo

With or without the heart ailment which caught the attention of the world, Kanu would still have merited his place in the annals of legends out of Africa. Kanu’s 1996 achievements with his club Ajax and at the Olympics with Nigeria were always going to be good enough to fetch him the honour. Before it was equaled by Cameroon in year 2000, the Olympic gold medal was Africa’s highest achievement in world football. Kanu’s two goals sent Brazil out in the semi-final.

Famous quote

I’ll be back! – Just before he was wheeled in for the heart operation to fix his weak aorta valve at Cleveland hospital in Ohio, USA, 1996.

National team

87 caps; 12 goals; 1994-2011

Club honours

Nigerian Premier League: 1992-93 with Iwuanyanwu Nationale

Eredivisie: 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96 with Ajax

UEFA Champions League: 1994-95 with Ajax

UEFA Super Cup: 1995 with Ajax

Intercontinental Cup: 1995 with Ajax

UEFA Cup: 1997-98 with Inter

Premier League: 2001-02, 2003-04 with Arsenal

FA Cup: 2001-02, 2002-03 with Arsenal

FA Community Shield: 1999

FA Cup: 2007-08 with Portsmouth

International honours

FIFA U-17 World Cup: 1993

Olympic Gold Medal: 1996

Afro-Asian Cup of Nations: 1995

2000 African Cup of Nations: Runners-up

Individual honours

African Footballer of the Year: 1996, 1999

BBC African Footballer of the Year: 1997, 1999

Rabah Madjer

Rabah Madjer

He left the shadows of Algerian teammate Lakhdar Bellounmi when he was made the national team captain – a sign of recognition by his country that he was then their number one player. He guided the national team to victory at the 17th Africa Cup of Nations on home soil where he emerged player of the tournament. He will always be remembered for the cheeky goal he scored for Porto against Bayern Munich in the 1987 European Cup final.

Famous quote

The virus never leaves you – Madjer on football, 2013.

National team

87 caps; 29 goals; 1978-1992

Club honours

Algerian Cup: 1978-79 with Hussein Dey

European Cup: 1986-87 with Porto

Intercontinental Cup: 1987 with Porto

Portuguese League: 1985-86, 1987-88, 1989-90 with Porto

Portuguese Cup: 1987-88, 1990-91 with Porto

Portuguese Supercup: 1986, 1990 with Porto

International honours

Africa Cup of Nations: 1990; Runner-up 1980

Afro-Asian Cup of Nations: 1991

Individual honours

African Footballer of the Year: 1987

Arab Footballer of the 20th century: 2004

Algerian Footballer of the 20th century: 2009 (with Lakhdar Belloumi)

Algerian Footballer of the Year: Several awards

African Footballer of the 20th century: Fifth place

Roger Milla

Roger Milla

The stories of the 1990 and 1994 World Cups will not be complete without a certain Roger Milla. On both occasions, he came out of retirement to shine at the biggest stage in world football. At Italia ’90, Milla scored arguably the most dramatic goal of the tournament when he robbed Colombia’s keeper Rene Higuita of the ball and slotted it into an unguarded net. At USA ’94, Milla at age 42 became the oldest player to score in the World Cup, during Cameroon’s 6-1 loss to Russia.

Famous quote

Nobody dribbles Milla – After robbing Higuita of the ball, 1990.

National team


Club honours

Cameroon League and Cup Champion: 1972, 1973 with Leopards de Duala

African Cup Winners Cup: 1975 with Tonnerre de Yaunde

French Cup: 1980, 1981 with Bastia

French second-division champion: 1987 with Montpellier

International honours

CAF Africa Cup of Nations winner: 1984, 1988

Individual honours

CAF Africa Cup of Nations joint-top scorer: 1984 (4 goals), 1986 (4 goals)

CAF Africa Cup of Nations best player: 1986

FIFA 100

CAF Best African Player of the last 50 years: 2007

African Footballer of the Year: 1976, 1990

Comparison can also be tedious so let us know your pick of the pack – from those we included and those we left out.


Name Caps Goals Club honours Int’l honours Individual
Kanu 87 12 14 3 4
Madjer 87 29 10 2 6
Milla N/A N/A 6 2 7
Pele 73 33 5 2 16
Weah 60 22 11 0 14
Eto’o 116 56 15 4 21

1 Comment

  1. The Mayor
    The Mayor September 01, 21:58

    Very nice one, though, I seem too young to know some of the guys in the honourable mentions. Was expecting Finidi George in the honourable mentions list.

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