As Ivory Coast prepare for the African Cup of Nations final, their former striker Didier Drogba has been named the Premier League’s best ever African player in a study carried out by Opta for African Cup of Nations broadcaster British Eurosport while shocking Ghana’s Tony Yeboah who shined for Leeds United was left out.
However, Michael Essien was named at 9th position with others like Yakubu Ayigbeni, Efan Ekoku and Lucas Radebe named ahead of the Ghana star even though he made a massive impact for Chelsea.
Opta produced a Top 10 of African players with Chelsea’s Drogba at the top, ahead of a host of players who have written their names into Premier League history.
The Ivorian joined the club at the same time as Jose Mourinho in 2004 and along with Petr Cech, John Terry and Frank Lampard, he formed the fearsome spine of a team who went onto win three league titles and four FA Cups. The only African to score more than 100 goals in the Premier League and the leading African assister with 55, Drogba also scored the winning penalty in Chelsea’s 2012 Champions League victory, cementing his name as one of the club’s, and the league’s, all-time greats. Currently enjoying a second spell at Chelsea as an impact sub, few players are more identifiably part of the Roman Abramovich era than Didier Drogba.
In second place is another Ivorian in Manchester City’s Yaya Toure. Like Didier Drogba at Chelsea, Toure has performed a similarly inspirational role at Manchester City. Signed from Barcelona in 2010, Toueé scored the only goal in both the semi-final and the final of the FA Cup in 2011, was the driving force in the club’s successful Premier League title run-in a year later and in 2013-14 he became only the second central midfielder in Premier League history to score 20 goals in a single season (along with current team-mate Lampard) as City secured their second league title in three seasons. Already the sixth top scoring African in Premier League history, he should overhaul fifth-placed Efan Ekoku and fourth-placed Kanu soon.
Rounding out the top three is Nigerian striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni, who returned to England when he signed for Championship team Reading on transfer deadline day. Prior to his return to the UK, Yakubu played for five clubs in England (Blackburn Rovers, Everton, Leicester City, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth). Only seven players have scored four or more Premier League goals in more than one game and the only African among them is Yakubu (for Portsmouth v Middlesbrough and for Blackburn v Swansea).
Yakubu has surely ended his top-flight career in England with a tantalising total of 95 goals. A bustling forward, one of just a handful of players to score a hat-trick on his Champions League debut, Yakubu’s healthy goal total is enhanced by the fact that he scored for four different teams and recorded his highest goal total in his final Premier League campaign (17 for Blackburn in 2011-12).
Here is Opta’s top 10 in full:
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