Football is known as one of the most profitable sports out there, with the most successful teams continuously striking profitable deals with sponsors of all kinds, ranging from sportswear manufacturers, airlines, and banks to online service providers and betting operators like Betway, provider of secure Kenyan football betting, among others. This means that they are constantly scouting for talent meant to strengthen the ranks of their own teams. And not just young players but seasoned ones, too, who have already seen success in their home teams. Today, let’s take a look at some of the most talented African football players strengthening the ranks of teams overseas.
Alex Song was born in Douala, Cameroon, and was a football fan since an early age. Not being able to find a suitable club locally, he moved to France and joined the youth academy of the Corsican team Bastia at the age of 16. He started his senior career there in 2004, spending a season on loan at Arsenal before transferring to the Premier League club in 2006. In his six years with the club, he appeared in 137 games as a midfielder. After Arsenal, he played for Barcelona, West Ham, and Rubin Kazan before transferring to Swiss side Sion this summer.
Song is known for his excellent ability to tackle and his use in contributing to attacks.
Born in Accra, Ghana, Essien also started his professional career at Bastia in 2000. After three years spent with the team, he transferred to Lyon, refusing an offer from Paris Saint Germain. After two years, he moved on to Chelsea, spending almost a decade with the team and appearing in almost 170 matches. After his long relationship with Chelsea, he moved on to Milan, spent two years with Panathinaikos, and finally joined the Indonesian club Persib Bandung last year, ultimately leaving the team this spring.
He is considered one of the best midfielders in the field today, with his time at Chelsea being remembered as one of the most successful ones for the team.
Boateng is a talented ball-juggler, he is fast, strong, and has a flamboyant style of attack that he put to use during his career at many clubs. He started his senior career at the German side Hertha BSC before signing with Tottenham in 2009. From there, he moved on to Portsmouth, Milan, Schalke 04, back to Milan, then spent a season with Spanish side Las Palmas before ultimately signing with his current club, Italian side Sassuolo. Since 2010, he played 15 games (and scored two goals) for Ghana’s National Team.
Touré started his youth career in 1996 with the Ivorian side ASEC Mimosas but started his senior years at Beveren, a Belgian club owned by French player Jean-Marc Guillou who wanted to bring more Ivorian players to Europe. After two years at the club, Touré almost signed with Arsenal but ran into issues with his work permit, got impatient, and chose to sign with the Ukrainian club Metalurh Donetsk instead. After two years, he moved on to Greece’s Olympiacos for one season, then left the team for Monaco, followed by three years at Barcelona before joining Manchester City for eight years. During this time, he played in 230 matches and scored 59 goals for the Premier League side. Ultimately, he left Manchester City this summer and signed with Olympiacos once again in September.
Honorable mention: Didier Drogba
Drogba is seen as one of the most successful African players ever to set foot in Europe. Now retired, he is known as the foreign player who has scored the most goals for Chelsea in its history – during his eight years with the team, he played in 226 matches and scored 100 times, and in his second run with Chelsea, in the 2014-2015 season, he played further 28 times and scored four goals. Ultimately, he signed with United Soccer League team Phoenix Rising FC in 2017, also becoming one of the owners of the club, making him the first ever player-owner in football history.
Drogba retired this November, at the age of 40 but remained with the club, making it his goal to help promote it to the Major League Soccer.