Mohamed Salah, Drogba, and Sadio Mane to lead the attack as we look at the all time best players 11 from Africa in Premier League History.
Right from the first season of the Premier League, players from African Continent have graced the league. Former Zimbabwe captain Peter Ndlovu became the first African player to play in PL when he played for Coventry in the inaugural PL season in 1992.
With the years passing by, role and influence of African players on the teams have grown multiple times. Who can forget the speed and control of Drogba for the Blues, the cool finishes of Adebayor, the calmness of Yaya Toure in midfield for the Cityzens, and the role Salah & Mane played in the recent success of Liverpool?
Well, these are only a few of the many African players who have shown their magic in the Premier League. The African players bring a different flavour to the Premier League. Be it their work ethics, never say never attitude, or unique styles of goal celebration which go well with the fans not only in England but all across the globe.
So, with all said, wouldn’t it be interesting to analyze the best 11 African players to have graced the Premier League? Well, this is exactly what we would find in this article. The intention is to select the best 11 players basis their performance over the years in the Premier league. So, let’s get to it.
#1: Edouard Mendy (Senegal)
In the goalkeeping department, not many choices are there to choose from. Chelsea signed Mendy in 2020 just 2 seasons after the £71 million panic buy (a world record fee) of Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. Mendy made the mark in his first season itself with 16 clean sheets out of 31 games he played. Till now Edouard Mendy has played 74 times for Chelsea across three seasons and kept 31 clean sheets. He has made 155 saves, 1 penalty saved, and 30 clearances so far in his Premier League career.
#2: Celestine Babayaro (Nigeria)
The Nigerian left-back joined Chelsea as a teenager in 1997 at a record fee of £2.25 million. He had a long PL career which lasted for 11 seasons. 8 out of those 11, he played for Chelsea and remaining for Newcastle United. He could only play 179 PL matches as he had many injury concerns throughout his playing days. Overall, he kept 54 clean sheets, scored 5 PL goals, and provided 13 assists in PL.
#3: Joseph Yobo (Nigeria)
The Nigerian became the first signing of the David Moyes era of Everton. He was one of the most consistent and regular faces for Toffees in the 2000s. He played for every minute in the 2006-07 PL season for Everton without getting substituted in any of the matches. In a total of 228 PL appearances, he kept impressive 67 clean sheets with 8 goals and 2 assists. He is best remembered for the part he played in David Moyes’s impressive 11-year-long stint with Everton.
#4: Kolo Toure (Cote D’Ivoire)
The Ivory Coast defender is a true Premier League legend. The two-time PL champion has graced the PL for 14 seasons and played for coveted clubs like Arsenal, Manchester City, and Liverpool. He started his career for the Gunners under the legendary manager Arsene Wenger.
Toure was part of the famous ‘Invincibles’ Arsenal team of the 2003-04 season. He started in 37 out of 38 matches in that season. Overall, he had 352 PL appearances with 108 clean sheets. He also won PL in 2011-12 with Manchester City. Later, he joined his Liverpool and Celtic manager Brendon Rodgers in his coaching staff after hanging his boots in 2017 at Celtic.
#5: Lauren (Cameroon)
Lauren is best remembered for his famous ‘Invincibles’ 2003-04 season with the Gunners. The defender started in 32 matches that season with no substitute appearance. He has played his part in 7 PL seasons for Arsenal and won 2 PL titles under Arsene Wenger. Later on, he ended his PL career with Portsmouth where he featured in 2 seasons. The Cameroon defender has kept 63 clean sheets, scored 6 times, and provided 8 assists in 184 PL appearances overall.
#6: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
Riyad Mahrez has won 3 PL titles with Manchester City and is an integral part of Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City plans. But he will always be remembered for the greatest underdog story he wrote on the field along with his teammates for Leicester City in the title-winning 2015-16 season which started with winning odds of 5000/1.
His partnership with Jamie Vardy in that season came like a storm for Premier League giants that swept most of the teams and caught them surprised. Overall, he has scored 82 times and provided 55 assists in 273 PL appearances so far.
#7: Michael Essien (Ghana)
The Ghana international was among the first few signings done by Chelsea under the new ownership. He became the most expensive African player in history when Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea signed him for £24.4 million. He was an instant hit with Chelsea and won the PL title in his very first season in 2006.
Later on, he won one more PL title in 2010 and also won his first UEFA Champions League title with Chelsea in 2012. In 168 PL appearances for Chelsea, he scored 17 times and provided 10 assists. He is best remembered for his partnerships with Lampard and Makelele in the midfield for the Blues.
#8: Yaya Toure (Cote D’Ivoire)
The younger brother of Kolo Toure joined Manchester City just one year after his brother and helped Cityzens to win their first-ever Premier League trophy in the 2011-12 season. He overall lifted the PL trophy 3 times with Manchester City and truly earned the legend status in the Manchester City fan base. He has made 230 appearances with 62 goals and 32 assists in eight seasons he played for the Blue part of the Manchester in Premier League.
#9: Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
The Liverpool favourite turned around the difficult start he faced in PL under Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea for 3 seasons and came back stronger to PL with no looking back. He has won 3 golden boots, 1 player of the season, and 1 playmaker award so far in his 6th season running for Liverpool.
In just 217 appearances, he has scored 129 times, which is the highest for any African nationality player in PL, and has also provided 52 assists. The Egyptian has helped Liverpool to end the 30-year draught of the league title and registered his name in Liverpool folklore for years to come.
#10: Didier Drogba (Cote D’Ivoire)
The talismanic forward is truly the flag bearer of African football throughout the world. With 104 PL goals and 55 assists in 254 appearances, his record speaks for itself. Drogba has played a total of 9 seasons for Chelsea and won 4 PL titles with them.
He also won the golden boot twice in 2006/07 and 2009/10. Apart from that, he also won 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, and 1 Champions League trophy with Chelsea. The Ivorian became the second Chelsea player after Frank Lampard and the first African to be deservingly inducted into the PL hall of fame.
#11: Sadio Mane (Senegal)
Sadio Mane has played a total of 8 seasons in PL from 2014 to 2022. Liverpool bought him from Southampton after his very impressive first two seasons. Senegal forward holds the record for the quickest hat trick in PL which he scored in 2 minutes and 56 seconds for Southampton against Aston Villa in 2015.
He along with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino formed one the most threatening forward lines under Jurgen Klopp. He won the golden boot award in the 2018-19 season. The stylish forward has also played a crucial role in the title-winning 2019-20 season. Overall he has scored 111 goals and provided 38 assists in 263 PL appearances.
Premier League All-time Best Players 11 from Africa
Edouard Mendy [gk], Celestine Babayaro, Joseph Yobo, Kolo Toure, Lauren, Riyad Mahrez, Michael Essien, Yaya Toure, Mohamad Salah, Didier Drogba & Sadio Mane
So, that’s about all time best players 11 from Africa in the Premier League history. Other than the ones mentioned above, the Notable omissions who have been equally good include Emmanuel Adebayor, Aubameyang, and Jay Jay Okocha.
Stats Wizard Methodology:
To select the Best All-Time Player 11 from Africa in PL, we have taken various skill sets into consideration. We have taken a position-wise selection for the team. Each skill set has been given a different weightage in our calculations. In case of a tie among players, the level of opposition has been taken into consideration.
Attack: We have analyzed the forward line performances basis the attack rating calculated from the overall aspect of the game. They include goals scored, assists, shot accuracy, touches inside the box, successful dribbles, and offsides.
Midfield: Again, we have analyzed the midfield performances by looking at the various aspects like goals scored, assists, total passes, pass accuracy, touches, successful dribbles, duels, duels won, and interceptions.
Defense: Defensive skill sets which are included in our selection criteria are clean sheets, tackles, tackles won, duels/duels won, aerial duels won, clearances, interceptions, block shots, crosses, assists, and goals.
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Akshay is an author at Footbalytics. His love for football started way back in 1998 when Ronaldo (Not Cristiano) was his first football hero, and the list keeps getting longer ever since.
Though Akshay is a Teacher by profession, he firmly believes that there is no better classroom than the Sports field and no better Teacher than Sports.