Africa’s many soccer teams may not have done very well in the biggest football tournament in the world last year but this doesn’t mean they don’t have valuable players. Actually, some of the best are playing for major international clubs, among them one of the most prestigious leagues in the world, the English Premier League. Here are some of the best African players who made a name for themselves in Great Britain.
Laureano Bisan Etamé-Mayer, better known by his nickname Lauren, was a major asset for his team Arsenal between 2000 and 2007. Born in Cameroon, Lauren’s parents fled to Equatorial Guinea when he was still a child, then the family moved to Sevilla, Spain, where he was raised. After playing for several Spanish teams, he moved to English club Arsenal in 2000, where he stayed for seven seasons. In time, he became the club’s first-choice right-back, an integral part of the team until his transfer to Portsmouth.
Lucas Valeriu Ntuba Radebe started his football career with the South African team Kaizer Chiefs before transferring to the Premier League club Leeds United in 1994. He stayed with the team for more than 10 years, playing in over 200 matches, and scoring no goals at all – he played in defense, after all – but becoming the captain of the team. A series of severe injuries he suffered in 2000 seriously hampered his abilities, though – he ultimately retired in 2005, at the age of 36.
The Ivorian player Kolo Touré, the elder of the Touré brothers, started his career at ASEC Mimosas from where he moved to Premier League team Arsenal. There, he played as a defensive midfielder and right back at first, then advancing to the position of central defender, often playing as an attacking midfielder as well. He left Arsenal for Manchester City in 2009, for a fee of £14 million, where he was later joined by his brother Yaya. From there, he transferred to Liverpool in 2013 under a two-year contract, then went on to Scottish Premiership team Celtic in 2016, from where he retired in the next year.
Mohamed “Mo” Salah started his career at the Egyptian team El Mokawloon before being signed by German club Basel in 2012. After two years with the team, he moved on to Chelsea where he spent two seasons mostly on loan (at Italian teams Fiorentina and Roma) before transferring to Roma for a season. In 2017, he returned to the Premier League, this time to Liverpool for a club record fee of €42 million. There, he broke another record: he scored 36 times in his debut season, becoming the top goalscorer in Europe by overtaking stars like Messi and Harry Kane. The 26-year-old is still active, playing as a forward for the Premier League club.
Arguably the best African player in the history of the Premier League is Didier Drogba, a former striker for Chelsea. Born in Abidjan, he was sent to France at the age of five to live with his uncle, a professional football player. As a youth, he played with various teams, starting his senior career at Le Mans. After a few seasons spent wandering from team to team he ended up at Chelsea where he finally flourished, winning two “African Footballer of the Year” awards and becoming the fourth-highest goalscorer of the club. He left Chelsea for one season played for Shanghai Shenhua, then went on to Turkish team Galatasaray before returning to Chelsea once again. Later he left England for Canada, playing a season for Montreal Impact, then he went on to the Major League Soccer team Phoenix Rising before retiring from active play in 2018.
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